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Monday, 25 July 2016 09:40

Pope issues new rules on female contemplative religious life

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carmelitesPope Francis has issued a series of new rulings for contemplative women religious dealing with formation, assets, prayer life, authority and autonomy in the document titled  "Vultum Dei Quaerere" (Seeking the face of God), reports the Catholic News Service.

Released by the Vatican July 22, the feast of St Mary Magdalene, the 38-page document contains 14 new articles ruling on various aspects of life within monasteries and their jurisdiction. The new rulings include a mandate that "initially, all monasteries are to be part of a federation" based on "an affinity of spirit and traditions" with the aim of facilitating formation and meeting needs through sharing assets and exchanging members. Monasteries voting for an exception from joining a federation will need Vatican approval.

"Fifty years after Vatican Council II, after due consultation and careful discernment, I have considered it necessary to offer the Church, with special reference to monasteries of the Latin rite, the present Apostolic Constitution. It takes into account both the intense and fruitful journey taken by the Church in recent decades in the light of the teachings of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council and a changed social and cultural situation. In these past decades, we have seen rapid historical changes that call for dialogue. At the same time, the foundational values of contemplative life need to be maintained. Through these values – silence, attentive listening, the call to an interior life, stability – contemplative life can and must challenge the contemporary mindset," said the Pope in the document's introduction (8).

"As a means of assisting contemplative women to attain the goal of their specific vocation... I would invite reflection and discernment on twelve aspects of consecrated life in general and the monastic tradition in particular. These are formation, prayer, the word of God, the sacraments of the Eucharist and Reconciliation, fraternal life in community, autonomy, federations, the cloister, work, silence, the communications media and asceticism. The results of this reflection and discernment will have to be implemented in ways respectful of the specific charismatic traditions of the various monastic families. At the same time, they must respect the regulations found at the end of the present Constitution, as well as the practical guidelines soon to be issued by the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life." (12)

The Vatican Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life is now charged with creating a new instruction to replace what had been the current -- but now no longer in effect -- "Verbi Sponsa" -- the congregation's 1999 instruction on contemplative life and cloistered nuns.

Read more from the news report published on 22 July 2016 by the Catholic News Service.

Read and download the full text of "Vultum Dei Quaerere" (Seeking the face of God) here.