Secular institute

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A secular institute (world institute or world community) is the second form of an institute of consecrated life alongside the religious community . In contrast to religious orders, the members of secular institutes live predominantly in the world , not in monasteries .


One of the first forms of a secular institute was the “Compagnia di Sant'Orsola” founded by Angela Merici in 1535. The first Ursulines lived with their families and met for religious services and religious education. They were not yet in habit and tried to live the gospel . Its founder wrote the first rule for the community. However, the early 17th century, the Ursulines converted to a cloistered order.

With the Apostolic Constitution Provida mater ecclesia (February 2, 1947) of Pope Pius XII. (1939–1958) the form of the secular institute was regulated by canon law for the first time. As the first secular institute under papal law, Opus Dei was recognized on June 16, 1950 (since November 28, 1982, this has had the legal form of the personal prelature ) - Pope Paul VI. (1963–1978) later referred to the secular institutes as "experimental laboratories in which the church tests the concrete possibilities of its relationship with the world".

With the decree Perfectae caritatis on the contemporary renewal of religious life, some regulations that affect the life of religious communities were revised. The aim was to bring life to the communities

"[...] to adapt to the physical and mental requirements of today's people, but also - insofar as the nature of the institute requires it - to meet the requirements of the apostolate, the demands of culture, the social and economic environment [...]"

- Perfectae caritatis. 3

As a result, among other things, this led to the establishment of sacred institutes whose members often do not differ externally from the people around them and which operate on the principle of sourdough, "which can produce good bread for everyone".

The 1983 CIC differentiates among the institutions of consecrated life ( cann. 573-606 CIC ) between religious institutes ( cann. 607-709 CIC ) and secular institutes ( cann. 710-730 CIC ).

Life form

Secular institutes are among the forms of consecrated life . The lay people or clergy of the institute come together to live together in order to shape their life out of the gospel and to work in a missionary manner. That is why they usually do not live in a monastery , but in apartments, pursue a job, maintain social contacts and volunteer in society and the church . The CIC stipulates:

"A secular institute is an institute of consecrated life in which believers living in the world strive for perfection of love and strive to contribute to the sanctification of the world, especially from within."

- CIC can. 710

As with religious institutes, there are community-specific rules (statutes) that are determined by the members and approved by the responsible diocesan bishop . These can be promises for a time or vows according to the evangelical counsels of poverty, celibacy and obedience , which are first made for a period of time and then for life. Other elements common to religious orders , such as a common costume, are only adopted by some secular institutes. There are secular institutes that accept only women, only men or only priests . But there are also several secular institutes that form complementary parts of a spiritual movement, such as the Schoenstatt Movement .


In Germany, the secular institutes are represented in the Working Group of Secular Institutes in Germany eV based in Vallendar . 34 German and international (with branches in Germany) secular institutes are currently affiliated with the working group. The working group is represented by its leadership at the World Conference of Secular Institutes. The working group of Austrian secular institutes was founded after the Second Vatican Council at the suggestion of Franz Cardinal König (1905-2004). It is assigned to the Austrian Bishops' Conference and forms the link between the secular institutes and the Roman Catholic Church in Austria . The working group is based in Vienna and represents the ten affiliated institutes.

The World Conference of Secular Institutes ( Conference Mondiale des Institut Seculiers , CMIS) was founded in 1972 and approved by the Holy See in 1974 . The "World Council of Secular Institutes" is elected from among their ranks; this organizes the cooperation between the secular institutes worldwide. To this end, the CMIS promotes contacts and intensifies the exchange of experiences. The conference also works with other associations and organizations at national and international levels. On the basis of the documents of the Holy See, it organizes studies and research programs that take into account the experience of the secular institutes. At the same time, the CMIS is the advocate and partner of the Pontifical Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and for Societies of Apostolic Life . The World Council has its headquarters in Rome and represents the interests of around 32,350 members (including 26,580 women, 569 men, 3980 priests and 1260 other members).

The general assembly from July 25th to 28th 2012 in Assisi was attended by 350 general managers or their delegates. The newly elected World Council consists of nine members from Austria, France, Spain, Italy, Slovakia and India. The French Nadége Védie, superior general of the secular institute Notre Dame du Travail , was elected president .


  • Alexander Menningen : Christian in global existence . The theological foundations of the secular institutes of Schoenstatt, compared with relevant statements of the Second Vatican Council, Vallendar 1968 (3rd edition 1969)
  • Gertrud Pollak: The departure of the secular institutes and their theological place , Patris-Verlag, Vallendar 1986 (diss.). ISBN 3-87620-123-3 .

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ^ A b Gertrud Pollack: Secular Institutes . In: Hubertus Brantzen (Ed.): Schoenstatt Lexicon: Facts - Ideas - Life . 2nd unchanged edition. Patris-Verlag, Vallendar 2002, ISBN 3-87620-195-0 ( ).
  2. a b Joseph Listl, Hubert Müller, Heribert Schmitz (ed.): Handbook of Catholic Church Law. Friedrich Pustet, Regensburg 1983, ISBN 3-7917-0860-0 , p. 528.
  3. The Prelature of the Holy Cross and Opus Dei. In: relinfo. Evangelical Information Center: Churches - Sects - Religions, 1998, accessed on July 23, 2017 .
  5. Secular institutes in Germany Archived copy ( memento of the original from August 27, 2013 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  6. International web presence of CMIS
  7. Conférence National Institute Séculiers de France