Source: The Guardian
BY Harriet Sherwood Religion correspondent
Christian women who have pledged lifelong virginity as “brides of Christ” have expressed shock at a Vatican document that suggests literal virginity is not a prerequisite for their consecration.
The Vatican’s new instruction on consecrated virginity, Ecclesiae Sponsae Imago, was published earlier this month after requests from bishops who reported an increasing number of women being called to the vocation.
There are an estimated 5,000 consecrated virgins in at least 42 countries, with the largest numbers in France, Italy and Argentina.
Consecrated virgins are unmarried women who offer their physical virginity as a gift to Christ, and devote time to penance, works of mercy and prayer. Unlike nuns, they do not live in enclosed communities or wear special clothing. Most have jobs, and they provide for their own needs.