The Poor Clares, officially the Order of Saint Clare, (Latin: Ordo sanctae Clarae) -- originally referred to as the Order of Poor Ladies, and later the Clarisses, the Minoresses, the Franciscan Clarist Order, and the Second Order of St. Francis -- are members of a contemplative Order of nuns in the Catholic Church. The Poor Clares were the second Franciscan Order to be established. Founded by Saints Clare of Assisi and Francis of Assisi on Palm Sunday in the year 1212, they were organized after the Order of Friars Minor (the first Order), and before the Third Order of Penance or tertiaries. As of 2011 there were over 20,000 Poor Clare nuns in over 75 countries throughout the world. They follow several different observances and are organized into federations.
The Poor Clares follow the Rule of St. Clare, which was approved by Pope Innocent IV the day before Clare's death in 1253. The main branch of the Order (O.S.C.) follows the observance of Pope Urban. Other branches established since that time, who operate under their own unique Constitutions, are the Colettine Poor Clares (P.C.C.) (founded 1410), the Capuchin Poor Clares (O.S.C. Cap) (founded 1538) and the Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration (P.C.P.A.) (founded 1854).
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