– Tej Francis



(Catholic News Service) The Vatican has released a document that establishes norms and principles for women who dedicate their lives as consecrated virgins and their place in the life of the church. Presenting the new document at the Vatican press office July 4, Cardinal Joao Braz de Aviz, prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, said it is the “first document of the Holy See that delves into the character and discipline of this way of life.”

“The instruction on the ‘Ordo virginum’ (‘Order of Virgins’) intends to respond to the requests that numerous bishops and consecrated virgins in these years have presented to the congregation for consecrated life regarding the vocation and witness of the order of virgins, its presence in the universal church and, particularly, its formation and vocational discernment,” Cardinal Braz de Aviz said.

Consecrated by her local bishop, a member of the order of virgins makes a promise of perpetual virginity, prayer and service to the church while living independently in society.

The publishing of the document, “Ecclesiae Sponsae Imago” (“The Image of the Church as Bride”) comes two years ahead of the 50th anniversary of the promulgation of the renewed “Ritual for the Consecration of Virgins,” an ancient rite in the church that fell into disuse in the years before the Second Vatican Council.

Divided into three parts, the document’s first section highlights the biblical origins and characteristics of the order of virgins, in which women “with spousal love are dedicated to the Lord Jesus in virginity.”




(Crux) For anyone who thinks such things are simple matters of black and white, a conversation with Pakistan’s new cardinal is a refreshing reminder of the complexities of the real world.

Cardinal Joseph Coutts, who’ll be inducted later today by Pope Francis into the Church’s most exclusive club, voiced caution on both Bhatti and Bibi in a conversation with me on Tuesday – not really because he has any doubts about the merits of either case, but because he has to live with the consequences of whatever he says or does, and those offering confident commentary from the outside don’t.

Bhatti, the lone Christian minister in Pakistan’s national government, was assassinated in 2011 for his passionate advocacy of minority rights and his opposition to the country’s “blasphemy laws,” which establish criminal penalties, including death, for either insulting the prophet Muhammad or desecrating the Qur’an.

Bibi, an illiterate Catholic mother and farm worker from the Punjab, was sentenced to death by hanging in 2010 for allegedly insulting Muhammad and has been on the country’s death row ever since, as various hearings and appeals have worked their way through the Pakistani legal system.

Despite that ringing praise, Coutts stopped short of declaring Bhatti a martyr or saint-in-waiting. The same restraint ran through his discussion of the Bibi case. “You’ve got to understand the atmosphere, the kind of society we’re living in. These extremists, they don’t hesitate, not only to kill, but also to be killed. They don’t hesitate,” Coutts said, by way of explaining why discretion is sometimes the better part of valor.




(Crux) With peace in the Middle East as the goal, Pope Francis on Saturday will host an ecumenical prayer in the southern Italian city of Bari to be attended by the representatives of the Christian churches with a presence in the region, including the Russian Orthodox Church.

The pilgrimage to Bari, an ecumenical city par excellence due to the presence of the remains of St. Nicholas of Bari, venerated both by Catholics and Orthodox, has the motto of “Peace be upon you! Christians together for the Middle East.”

“[Francis] has always had gestures of friendship, welcoming, openness, of bringing walls down with the Oriental and Orthodox patriarchs,” said Argentine Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, who heads the Vatican’s Congregation for Oriental Churches.

“It’s not possible to imagine a Middle East without Christians, not only for political reasons, but because they are essential for the equilibrium of the region,” Koch said.

Among the Christian leaders who answered Pope Francis’s call are the heads of Orthodox churches, Oriental Orthodox churches, the Assyrian Orthodox Church, members of Catholic Oriental churches, a representative for the Lutheran Church, and one for the Middle East Council of Churches. A majority of the 19 leaders attending are patriarchs or heads of churches. Only five are sending a representative, including the Russian Orthodox Church and the Catholic Melkite Patriarchate of Antioch.

Despite signs of rapprochement in recent years, including a historic first meeting with the head of the Catholic Church, the intention of the prayer service and the importance of Bari as a pilgrimage site for his own faithful, Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill will not attend the gathering. However, he is sending his right-hand man, Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, as his representative.


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