In the Catholic Church, a consecrated virgin is a woman who has been consecrated by the church to a life of perpetual virginity as a bride of Christ. Consecrated virgins are consecrated by the diocesan bishop according to the approved liturgical rite. The consecrated virgins are to spend their time in works of penance and mercy, in apostolic activity and in prayer, according to their state of life and spiritual gifts. A consecrated virgin may live either as a nun in some of the monastic orders or "in the world" under the authority of her bishop, to the service of the church.
The rite of consecration of virgins for women living in the world was reintroduced in 1970, under Pope Paul VI, in the wake of the Second Vatican Council. It is based on the template of the practice of the velatio virginum going back to the Apostolic era, especially the early virgin martyrs. The consecration of virgins for nuns who made their final profession of vows outlasted times in various forms and without discontinuation in bestowal.
The 1983 Code of Canon Law and the 1996 Apostolic Exhortation Vita Consecrata by John Paul II speak of the reflourishing Order of Virgins (Ordo Virginum), the members of which represent an image of the church as the Bride of Christ.
Estimates on the number of consecrated virgins derived from diocesan records range at around 5,000 consecrated virgins living in the world as of 2018. In view of growing interest in the vocation, and of the upcoming 50th anniversary of its formal institution, the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life issued the instruction Ecclesia Sponsae imago in July 2018.