"I commend to Mary most holy the communities of contemplative life, which I greet with affection," the Pope said from the window of his study today before praying the midday Angelus with several thousand pilgrims gathered in St. Peter's Square.
"May these brothers and sisters of ours never lack the spiritual and material support of all the faithful," he added.
Among those who dedicate their lives to contemplation, the most numerous are women's cloistered communities.
Worldwide there are 3,529 cloistered convents with 47,626 nuns, as well as 8,100 novices and postulants.
Europe is the continent with the greatest number of women's contemplative convents with 2,252, followed by America with 904, Asia with 227, Africa with 123, and Oceania with 23.
Europe also has the greatest number of contemplative women religious with 29,788 professed and 3,179 novices and postulants.
"Cloistered nuns are a testimony of the primacy of God," Benedictine Mother Maria Cicchetti told Vatican Radio on Saturday.
She is superior of the cloistered convent located in the Vatican. In 1994 John Paul II began to invite cloistered communities for a period of five years to occupy the convent. The first were the Poor Clares, followed by the Carmelites. Since Oct. 7 the convent has been occupied by Benedictine nuns.
Mother Cicchetti said that for a society that is pragmatic and efficient and seeks what is "most useful, pleasing and satisfying, … the life of cloistered nuns 'is useless.'''
Contemplative life, she explained, "makes sense and acquires real and full meaning only from the point of view of faith and love. They are called to correspond to the infinite love of God in the name of all men, for the total salvation of all brothers and sisters of the world."