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Abstract

Ten popes, Vatican Il, the renewal of the laws of canonical discipline, a drastic change in the pastoral sphere of the Church as well as the confrontation with radical social, political, and ecumenical changes in contemporary society are but a few details of the colorful and multifaceted portrayal of the Church in the 20th and at the dawn of the 21st century. The social and cultural happenings which have rapidly come about in modem society have also had a noticeable toll on the consecrated life in the church. Its traditions, symbolisms, and cultural world are disappearing; old institutions are vanishing while new forms are emerging. It is generally agreed that consecrated life in our day is facing a new phase in its evolution.

Tackling our theme is challenging first of all because of the scale and pluralism typical of the "new communities" in the Catholic Church. For this paper I had a tough choice to make: Should I deal with the religious congregations founded in that period? Or, should I speak of a new form of consecrated life, the Secular Institutes which came about in the 1940s, or should I concentrate on the new lay communities, more correctly referred to as ecclesial movements? After much reflection I decided on the third possibility for reasons I hope to develop with you throughout this study.

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