An Italian Mother Superior has apparently been forced out by the Church over an alleged affair, leading to the closure of the convent she headed due to a lack of possible successors.

Driving the news

40-year-old Sister Maria Teresa had led until recently the Convent of the Cappuccini Fathers in Sansepolcro, in the Tuscan hills, which had been run by Benedictine nuns since 2015.

Sister Maria Teresa turned that house, near Arezzo, from a state of total abandonment into a centre for the local community, earning her the admiration of neighbours who applauded “her incredible energy” and effective organisation.

Under the nun’s management, the nuns of the monastery grew fruit and olives, hosted baptisms, confirmations and weddings and also welcomed nearly forty pilgrims at a time.

But then the convent hung up the closed “definitively” sign on its website, reportedly because Sister Maria Teresa fell in love with a local man and was forced out by the Church.

The monastery supposedly closed because the three other nuns at the monastery were an 80 year-old woman and two novices, who would not have been able to carry through with Sister Maria Teresa’s ambitious projects for the house.

Go deeper

But the closure of the Sansepolcro convent may not be as it seems.

“[The other three nuns] are in tears and I’m also crying”, Sister Maria Teresa told La Repubblica, leading to speculation her exit was less than voluntary.

With regard to the affair rumours, the sister said that “they wanted to tell that story, let’s leave them doing that”, but refused to go into further details.

“The story is much more complicated than it seems”, the nun hinted.

Bishop of Arezzo Riccardo Fontana, however, said he had had nothing to do with forcing the sister out.

“I have nothing to do with that. There was an intervention of the Holy See and everything ended there”, the prelate said.

Fontana added that “this is a very painful situation for all involved”.

Why it matters

Whatever the real reason for the shuttering of the Tuscan abbey, the upshot is that the closure of the religious house is hardly an isolated case.

Earlier this year, just in the same Italian province of Arezzo, the convent of Anghiari was forced to close down due to a lack of vocations.

According to Vatican figures, from 1997 to 2015 more than 100,000 nuns in Europe alone abandoned their vocations, at the rate of 8,000 a year.

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