The Vatican announced on Wednesday that religious orders can select lay brothers to serve as provincial superior or superior general of the communities, America magazine reported.
According to a rescript from the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, a body that oversees the religious orders, the exception to canon law was approved by Pope Francis on Feb. 11.
The rescript does not give permanent permission to elect a brother as a superior general. Instead, it requires those seeking the position to obtain a license from the overseeing body.
The Vatican office also said it ''reserves the right to evaluate the individual case and the reasons given by the supreme moderator or the general chapter'' of the order for choosing a brother.
The move from Pope Francis comes five years after the Franciscan family — which includes the Order of Friars Minor, Capuchins, Conventual Franciscans, and the Third Order Regulars — asked him to allow the exception.
The Rev. Michael Perry, a former general minister of the Order of Friars Minor, told Vatican Radio in 2017 that the pope was ''looking at the possibilities for moving this project forward'' regarding the election or selection of lay brothers to the positions, according to Crux.
''We left a letter as a formal request for a dispensation'' from canon law requirements, Perry said.
''In addition, we have spoken of the importance of the possibility of allowing lay friars to serve in an ordinary way in our respective orders,'' he added.
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