Institutes of Christian perfection whose members take simple vows, as distinguished from religious orders in which solemn vows are made. Congregations are a modern development in the Catholic Church, among the first being the English Ladies, approved in 1703, and the Passionists, approved in 1741. They are either diocesan or pontifical, depending on whether they are subject immediately to a local bishop or to the Holy See. Since 1908, the special approbation as a pontifical community has been given by the Vatican's Congregation for Religious.
The term "congregation" is also applied to groups of monasteries that have arisen since the Middle Ages to facilitate discipline and intercommunication. Such groups may be united under an abbot general. Examples are the Cassinese Congregation, dependent on Monte Cassino, and various national congregations.