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Order (religious)

A religious order is an organization of people who live in some way set apart from society in accordance with religious devotion. The members of such orders, termed religious as a group, are usually distinct from both the laity and the clergy. They are often termed monks, friars or brothers if male, and nuns or sisters if female.

Some orders practice literal isolation (cloistering) from the outside world; others remain engaged with the world in various ways, often teaching or serving in traditional roles, while maintaining their distinction in other ways. All, however, may be distinguished by vows or disciplines they undertake as members of their orders.

The best-known religious orders in the Western world are Catholic and Buddhist orders of monks and nuns. However, the practice is common in many tribes of Africa and South America on a smaller scale.

In Buddhist societies such as Sri Lanka, Thailand, Korea and Tibet, there exist strickingly large monastic orders. A well-known Chinese Buddhist order is the ancient Shaolin order in Ch'an (Zen) Buddhism.

Catholic orders Catholic religious orders should be distinguished from Holy Orders, that is to say bishops, priests, and deacons.


Other Catholic groups

See also: monasticism, ascetic.

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