New instructions for the contemplative life of women
Pope provides precise guidelines regarding practical and spiritual aspects pertaining to founding and running of monasteries for contemplative nuns
(Photo by Robert Frank Gabriel)
The Vatican has released a new instruction with norms for contemplative orders of nuns so as to encourage cooperation among their monasteries and safeguard those left with only a few members.
The document, Cor Orans ("Praying Heart") is a follow-up instruction on implementing Pope Francis' 2016 document Vultum Dei Quaerere ("Seeking the Face of God"). These documents safeguard the identity and mission of contemplative nuns.
The new instruction seeks to fill the legislative gaps left since Pope Pius XII's apostolic constitution Sponsa Christi from 1950, and to carry out fully the mandate in Vultum Dei Quaerere.
The new document Cor Orans dated April 1, was presented by Vatican officials only in Italian and Spanish. However, shortly afterwards the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life (CICLSAL) published an English translation of the text.
Archbishop José Rodríguez Carballo, secretary of the congregation, told reporters that a significant change is requiring a monastery or contemplative community of women religious to have at least eight professed religious women to maintain their autonomy, Catholic News Service reported.
However, if that number drops to five professed religious, they lose their right to elect a superior. The Vatican congregation is then informed of the situation, and an ad hoc commission is formed to name an administrator, he said.
The outside intervention is meant to assess whether the community's difficulties are "temporary or irreversible," the archbishop was quoted as saying.
The new instruction requires that all monasteries are to be part of a federation to facilitate formation, the sharing of assets and exchanging members. A monastery can request an exception from the Vatican.
Monasteries have one year to comply with this ruling until the Vatican assigns them a federation or other form of association.
The new instruction details the rights and responsibilities federations will have as well as the role of a federation president in making sure that the community continues with mandatory formation and informing the Vatican about those who do not comply.
Archbishop Rodríguez Carballo said the instructions are built on responses received from a questionnaire sent to all contemplative women religious a few years ago.