Pope Francis called on women who consecrated their virginity to God to be “women of mercy” and “experts in humanity.”
In a message released by the Vatican on June 1, the pontiff said consecrated virgins should believe in the “revolutionary nature of love and tenderness.”
There are an estimated 5,000 women around the world who formally belong to the Order of Virgins.
Pope Francis’ message marked the 50th anniversary of St. Paul VI’s revival of the “Ritual for the Consecration of Virgins.”
“Do not close your eyes and do not flee from [social realities],” said the pope in his message.
“Your consecration dedicates you to God without separating you from the setting in which you live and in which you are called to bear personal witness by a lifestyle of evangelical closeness,” he added.
In 1970, Pope Paul VI mandated the Sacred Congregation for Divine Worship to reintroduce the new rite for the consecration of virgins.
The rite of the consecration of virgins had always existed for nuns who make their final profession of vows.
The new rite has allowed diocesan bishops to consecrate women to God, and unlike other religious orders, these women are free to pursue other profession aside from their religious vocation.
Pope Francis also asked the women “to avoid the temptation to chatter and gossip” and encouraged them to “stand up to arrogance and to prevent abuses of power.”
He also reminded the women to not extinguish the “prophetic nature of your vocation.”
“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.
Under the Code of Canon Law, consecrated virgins “represent an image of the Church as heavenly bride.”
The pope said the Church is also a virgin because although made up of sinners “she continues to preserve the faith intact, to bring forth new life and to foster the growth of a new humanity.”
Addressing consecrated virgins, the pope said: “Your virginal consecration helps the Church to love the poor, to discern forms of material and spiritual poverty, to help those who are weak and vulnerable, those suffering from physical and mental illness, the young and the elderly, and all those in danger of being marginalized or discarded.”