VATICAN CITY, 15 MAY 2008 (VIS) - Five hundred women, members of the "Ordo Virginum" who have come to Rome on pilgrimage to participate in an international congress being held by their order, were received in audience this morning by Benedict XVI.
In his remarks to them the Pope, quoting the theme chosen for the congress, pointed out that consecrated virginity is "a gift in the Church and for the Church". And he invited the women "to develop, from day to day, their understanding of a charism which is as luminous and fruitful in the eyes of the faith as it is obscure and futile in the eyes of the world".
"The Order of Virgins represents a particular form of consecrated life which flowered anew in the Church after Vatican Council II", the Holy Father explained. "However, it has ancient roots that go back to the beginnings of evangelical life when, in an unprecedented novelty, the hearts of certain women began to open to a desire for consecrated virginity: in other words, the desire to give one's entire being to God, which had had its first extraordinary fulfilment in the Virgin of Nazareth and her 'yes'".
"Your charism must reflect the intensity, but also the freshness, of its origins", said Benedict XVI noting how, "when it came into being, the charism did not involve a particular way of life. Little by little, however, it was institutionalised, finally becoming a full public and solemn consecration conferred by the bishop through an inspirational liturgical rite that made the consecrated woman 'sponsa Christi', an image of the Church as bride".
"Your vocation", he told the women, "is profoundly rooted in the particular Church to which you belong. ... From the diocese, with its traditions, its saints, its values, limits and difficulties, you open up to the scope of the Universal Church, sharing particularly in her liturgical prayer. ... In this way your prayerful 'I' progressively broadens out, until in the prayer there is nothing more than a great 'we'. ... In your dialogue with God, open yourselves to dialogue with all creatures".
"The choice of virginal life", the Pope concluded, "is an allusion to the transitory nature of earthly things and an anticipation of future good. Be witnesses of vigilant and industrious hope, of joy, of the peace that belongs to those who abandon themselves to the love of God. Be present in the world, yet pilgrims on the journey to the Kingdom".
AC/ORDO VIRGINUM/... VIS 20080515 (420)