VATICAN CITY (CNA)—Pope Francis sent a letter on June 1 to women living the vocation of consecrated virginity, exhorting them to be close to suffering people, and to lead them to Christ. His message was sent to mark the 50th anniversary of the Church’s revision of the Rite of Consecration of Virgins, published in 1970 with the approval of St. Paul VI.
“Be women of mercy, experts in humanity,” the pope said in his June 1 message to consecrated virgins around the world.
“Let everything that is happening all around us disturb you: do not close your eyes to it and do not flee from it,” he continued. “Be present and sensitive to pain and suffering. Persevere in proclaiming the Gospel, which promises fullness of life for all.”
A consecrated virgin is a never-married woman who dedicates her perpetual virginity to God and is set aside as a sacred person who belongs to Christ in the Catholic Church. There are more than 5,000 consecrated virgins worldwide, according to estimates by the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life.
In his message, Pope Francis encouraged the women to “weave a web of authentic relationships” to decrease loneliness and anonymity in cities, and to have “the wisdom, the resourcefulness, and the authority of charity, in order to stand up to arrogance and to prevent abuses of power.”
The pope expressed his regret that an international meeting of consecrated virgins, organized to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Rite by the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life, had to be postponed.
“Nevertheless, I wish to join you in giving thanks for what Saint John Paul II, addressing you on the twenty-fifth anniversary, referred to as a ‘twofold gift of the Lord to his Church,’” he said.
According to the pope, the vocation of consecrated virginity “is a sign of the inexhaustible and manifold richness of the gifts of the Spirit of the Risen Lord, who makes all things new.”
He added that it is also a sign of hope and the faithfulness of God the Father, who inspires certain women with the desire for this vocation.
Francis also highlighted that it is a vocation lived out “in a concrete social and cultural setting, rooted in a particular Church, and expressed in a way of life that is ancient, yet modern and ever new.”
“You have been called, not because of your own merits, but by God’s mercy, to make your lives a reflection of the face of the Church, the Bride of Christ,” he said.
Your lives, he noted, reveal the eschatological tension of creation. He also encouraged meditating on the texts of the Rite of Consecration.
“You are called to experience yourselves, and then to testify to others, that God, in his Son, loved us first, that his love is for all, and that it has the power to change sinners into saints,” he said.
The pope closed by extending his blessing to all consecrated virgins, as well as those women who will be consecrated in the future.
“As signs of the Church as Bride, may you always be women of joy, following the example of Mary of Nazareth, woman of the Magnificat, Mother of the living Gospel,” he stated.