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Review needed to set up diocesan religious order

Diocesan bishops must consult with the Vatican before establishing a diocesan religious order, Pope Francis ruled.

The consultation "is to be understood as necessary for the validity of the erection of a diocesan institute of consecrated life," said the rescript or ruling approved by Pope Francis April 4 and published by the Vatican May 20.

The Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life said in a statement that the consultation is necessary because "every new institute of consecrated life, even if it comes into the light and develops within a particular church, is a gift given to the entire Church."

The congregation said it is necessary "to avoid new institutes being erected on the diocesan level without sufficient discernment of the originality of the charism," which determines the way the members will live out the evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity and obedience.

Sister Sharon Holland, a member of the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary and a canon lawyer who worked at the congregation, said there had been "much discussion" for years over whether consultation with the Vatican was necessary.

The U.S.-based Sisters of Life, founded by the late Cardinal John J. O'Connor of New York in 1991, "is a good example of a group that went through the proper channels in the right way" before being officially approved as a religious institute of diocesan right in 2004, Sister Holland said. (CNS)

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