The 150 participants will elect a new prior general and members of the General Council. The general chapter, held every six years, is the highest authority of the order.
This year the order is celebrating the 750th anniversary of the scapular, given by Mary to St. Simon Stock, a 12th-century English Carmelite. John Paul II will receive the Carmelites to celebrate the occasion next week in St. Peter´s Square.
Father Tarcisio Gotay, secretary-general of the Carmelites, told Vatican Radio that the scapular is "a sign of our consecration."
"We were born on Mount Carmel, in the Holy Land, but because of the political situation of the area in those years, very similar to the present, we had to leave our place of origin and emigrate to Europe," Father Gotay explained. "The Virgin gave us this gift, as a sign of hope, at a very difficult time in our history."
The Carmelites were forced to leave the Holy Land in 1235, because of the Saracen persecutions.
Carmelite friars number about 2,200 religious. They work in houses of prayer, centers for spiritual exercises, parishes, Marian shrines, schools, and religious associations, and work with the poor and sick.