From Vatican News:
In 2020 it will be 50 years since Pope Paul VI revived the ancient Order of Virgins. Consecrated virgins now number approximately 5,000 and live in every part of the world. The Prefect for the Dicastery for Consecrated Life, Cardinal João Braz de Aviz, says that the new Instruction Ecclesiae Sponsae imago is the first Document to address the make-up and discipline of this form of consecration. It is also a response to the interest shown in this revived vocation. It focuses specifically on its place in the Church’s life, and the necessary discernment and formation required, he says.
Presenting the document, Archbishop José Rodríguez Carballo, Secretary of the Dicastery, summarized the history of the Order of Virgins. The Order developed from the Gospel witness of women who gave up everything in order to follow the Lord. It so rooted itself in the fabric of the Church that it was eventually given the name Order, analogous with those of bishops, priests, deacons and widows. Eventually it was absorbed into monasticism in the middle ages.
Pope Paul VI restored the Order of Virgins in 1970, giving back to the Church a form of life which offers her a reflection of her own nature as Spouse of Christ. Archbishop Carballo said that Bishops, consecrated virgins and experts collaborated on Ecclesiae Sponsae imago. Each “offered their own contribution in order to highlight the peculiarity and richness of this form of consecrated life”, he said.
The first part of the document explores the vocation and witness of the Order of Virgins. It explains that the vocation is primarily Marian; one that embraces a chaste, poor, and obedient life as well as prayer, penance, and the works of mercy. A distinguishing factor is that “the charism to virginity is harmonized with the charism proper to each consecrated woman…with creative freedom”, Archbishop Carballo said.