Francis mandates changes for contemplative women religious, requests revision of constitutions

by Joshua J. McElwee

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Pope Francis has issued a new set of guidelines for how Catholic women religious living in contemplative communities around the world should regulate their lifestyles, calling on them to implement changes in 12 areas, including prayer life and work habits.

The pope also mandated that each of the global communities of contemplative women religious adapt their various governing constitutions or rules to the new changes and send new versions of their documents to the Vatican for approval.

Francis makes the changes in a new apostolic constitution released Friday, Vultum Dei Quaerere (“Seek the Face of God”). The document is addressed only to Catholic women religious in contemplative communities, such as those that live in cloisters or whose lives are marked by a lifestyle devoted mainly to prayer instead of evangelical outreach or work.

While the pope uses the new document to issue praise for such women — especially lauding their ability to serve as an example of stability in a contemporary world often marked by temporary commitments — he also calls for them to begin to institute changes, particularly in their prayer lives.