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Latin for 'The Spouse of Christ'
Apostolic constitution of Pope Pius XII
|Signature date||21 November 1950|
Sponsa Christi (The Spouse of Christ) is an Apostolic Constitution issued by Pope Pius XII on the Feast of the Presentation, November 21, 1950. It addresses the vocation of consecrated women and their mystical engagement with Jesus Christ.
Characteristics of the consecrated life
The first part of the constitution deals with the historical development of the vocation of virginity and the development of monastic women's monasteries from the congregations of consecrated virgins of the early church, and in particular the contemplative life. Pius XII. describes the characteristics of the consecrated life of women and explains: "Because of their consecration by the diocesan Bishop, they acquire a special bond with the Church, to which they devote their service, even if they remain in the world. Alone or in community they represent a special eschatological image of the heavenly bride and the future life, when the church will finally live the love of her bridegroom Christ in abundance.
For sacred virgins the service of the liturgy is essential. The Word of God and the liturgy are the sources from which the consecrated virgins are to draw, to know the will of God and to bind themselves to him in freedom and in love. In the same part, the Pope sets out the provisions governing nuns' examinations. With this constitution fixed rules for religious communities are established, furthermore, a guideline is given to the consecrated virgins living in the world.
Pope Pius cited Sponsa Christi in the March 25, 1954, encyclical Sacra Virginitas as showing the importance of the office consecrated men and women fulfill in the Church.
Foundations of Canon Law
The second part specifies the statutes valid according to canon law:
- Article I. §§ 1-3 Establishment of religious orders for women
- Article II. §§ 1-3 Special Forms of Monastic Religious Life
- Article III. §§ 1-3 Affiliation and virgin consecration
- Article IV. §§ 1-5 Big and small papal examinations
- Article V. §§ 1-4 Commitment to the public celebration of the Liturgy of the Hours in chorus
- Article VI. §§ 1-3 Hierarchy and Order in Women's Monasteries
- Article VII. §§ 1-3 Authorization procedure by the Holy See
- Article VIII. §§ 1-3 Monastic work for the maintenance of the monasteries
- Article IX. Final provisions and exhortatio for strict compliance with these regulations
By the June 29, 2016, Apostolic Constitution Vultum Dei quaerere (On the contemplative life in the Women's Order) Pope Francis repealed the Statuta generalia Monialium (General statutes concerning nuns).