The Vatican published an instruction Tuesday aimed at applying norms established in Pope Francis’ 2016 apostolic constitution on women’s contemplative orders, which emphasizes the need for networks of monasteries in contemplative life. The instruction states that all monasteries of nuns must be affiliated with a federation, or organization, of religious houses.
Published May 15, the document concerns the nearly 38,000 nuns around the world in contemplative religious orders.
The instruction, entitled Cor orans, or “Praying heart,” was drafted by the Vatican’s Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life.
The most significant change the instruction puts forth is the obligation for individual monasteries, though autonomous, to belong to a federation of monasteries, connected either through a similar charism or through geographical location.
Pope Pius XII, in “Sponsa Christi Ecclesia,” encouraged the formation of these federations to prevent isolation, provide networks for mutual help, and for the preservation of the common charism, but until now membership was not obligatory.
The new norm gives monasteries one year to comply, after which time the Vatican’s office for religious life will assign monasteries to federations.
Another new aspect of the norms is the requirement that individual monasteries have at least five members, three of these having made solemn professed vows, in order to remain open. This is a change from the previous requirement of at least four members in a monastery.
The suppression of individual monasteries is a solution which is “painful as much as necessary,” the document states.
Additionally, if the number of community members with solemn professed vows drops to five, the monastery loses the right to the election of its own superior, and the president of the monastery’s federation is obliged to inform the Holy See.
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