The promotion of adequate formation, the centrality of the lectio divina, specific criteria for the autonomy of contemplative communities, and the membership of monasteries in a federation are some of the key points of the Apostolic Constitution Vultum Dei Quaerere [Seeking the face of God], signed by Pope Francis on 29 June and dedicated to women’s contemplative life.
The document was motivated, the Pontiff explains, by the journey taken by the Church and ‘rapid historical changes’ in the fifty years since Vatican Council II. Pope Francis highlights the need to engage in dialogue with contemporary society, safeguarding however ‘the foundational values of contemplative life,’ whose characteristics – silence, listening, stability – ‘can and must challenge the contemporary mindset’.
Introduced by an extensive reflection on the importance of women religious and nuns for the Church and for the world, the document indicates twelve themes for reflection and discernment for consecrated life in general, and concludes with fourteen regulatory articles.
Pope Francis was born Jorge Mario Bergoglio on 17 December 1936 in Buenos Aires, Argentina. As a young man, he worked briefly as a chemical technician and nightclub bouncer before entering the Jesuits. He was ordained a priest in 1969, and from 1973 to 1979, was Argentina’s Provincial Superior of the Society of Jesus. He became the Archbishop of Buenos Aires in 1998, and was appointed a Cardinal in 2001.
Following the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI on 28 February 2013, Bergoglio was named his successor on 13 March. He chose the name Francis in honor of Saint Francis of Assisi. He is the first Jesuit Pope, the first Pope from the Americas, the first Pope from the Southern Hemisphere, and the first non-European Pope in over 1200 years.
Pope Francis has been noted for his humility, his concern for the poor, and his commitment to dialogue as a way to build bridges between people of all backgrounds, beliefs, and faiths.