Portugal is in mourning after the violent murder and post-mortem rape of popular “radical nun” and heroine of the needy, Maria Antónia Guerra de Pinho, in the district of Aveiro.

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Last Sunday, the 61-year-old nun, known as ‘Tona’, went out to attend Mass.

She never came home.

The Portuguese police confirmed that her body was found in the house of a 44-year-old man in São João da Madeira.

The man – who has convictions for drug trafficking, rape and kidnapping – admitted that he propositioned the nun for sex.

When she declined, the man strangled her to death and later defiled her body.

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Sister Tona joined the Servants of Mary Ministers to the Sick twenty years ago.

She studied medicine in Spain, and later gained a nursing qualification as well.

When she arrived back in Portugal, she was sent to the district of Aveiro, where she gained fame for going everywhere first on a bike, and later on a scooter.

She was popular in the community with her work with the elderly, drug addicts and gang members.

“If I can contribute to the well-being of others”, Sister Tona said in an interview just days before her death, adding that she always wanted to be a nun “to be able to help the sick”.

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In a statement, the Conference of Religious Institutes of Portugal (CIRP) expressed its “pain” and “anger” at the death of Sister Tona, a “true apostle to the peripheries together with the most needy”.

The CIRP condemned the “violent”, “incomprehensible” and “cruel” murder “of a Sister who, with the giving of her life to the extreme, was a witness of Christ who shed his blood for the forgiveness of the sins of humanity”.

The town council of São João da Madeira, too, expressed its condolences, praising Sor Tona’s “humanitarian work” and “dedication to the most vulnerable”.

The nun’s funeral was due to take place this Wednesday morning.