VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The Vatican has released a document that establishes norms and principles for women who dedicate their lives as consecrated virgins and their place in the life of the church.

Presenting the new document at the Vatican press office July 4, Cardinal Joao Braz de Aviz, prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, said it is the “first document of the Holy See that delves into the character and discipline of this way of life.”

“The instruction on the ‘Ordo virginum’ (‘Order of Virgins’) intends to respond to the requests that numerous bishops and consecrated virgins in these years have presented to the congregation for consecrated life regarding the vocation and witness of the order of virgins, its presence in the universal church and, particularly, its formation and vocational discernment,” Cardinal Braz de Aviz said.

Consecrated by her local bishop, a member of the order of virgins makes a promise of perpetual virginity, prayer and service to the church while living independently in society.

The publishing of the document, “Ecclesiae Sponsae Imago” (“The Image of the Church as Bride”) comes two years ahead of the 50th anniversary of the promulgation of the renewed “Ritual for the Consecration of Virgins,” an ancient rite in the church that fell into disuse in the years before the Second Vatican Council.

Divided into three parts, the document’s first section highlights the biblical origins and characteristics of the order of virgins, in which women “with spousal love are dedicated to the Lord Jesus in virginity.”

Read more at Catholic News Service.