After long resistance, Massimiliana Panza and Angela Maria Punnacka finally agreed to leave the monastery of Santa Chiara, in the coastal city of Ravello, Italy, upon receiving an order signed by none other than Pope Francis.
Two nuns were stripped of their monastic vows by the Vatican, after resisting leaving a monastery in southern Italy to prevent it from being closed after seven centuries of existence, reports the AGI agency.
Massimiliana Panza and Angela Maria Punnacka finally left the monastery of Santa Chiara, in the coastal city of Ravello (Salerno), on February 3, after receiving a letter signed by Pope Francis in which they were informed that they had been ‘ released’ from their “obligations derived from sacred ordination” for “disobeying the Church and the Order of Poor Clares Urbanites of Italy”.
Panza, Punnacka and Sister Maria Cristina Fiore, 97, belonging to one of the oldest Franciscan orders in the country, were the only guests in the cloister. After carrying out an inspection of these facilities, the Vatican concluded in 2021 that the presence of the three nuns did not justify continuing to maintain the place and decreed its closure. Although the nuns tried last year to negotiate with church authorities, they were ordered to be transferred immediately to three different Italian monasteries. However, the so-called ‘rebel nuns’ refused to move, in protest and in order to avoid or at least delay the matter.
Finally, with the order of the Supreme Pontiff, Sister Massimiliana, 46, returned to her home in Nola (Naples), after 18 years of being cloistered. There she temporarily hosts Angela Maria, who is originally from India. Meanwhile, 90-year-old Maria Cristina, who has lived in the monastery since 1955, was allowed to stay there due to health problems. Paradoxically, two other nuns were assigned to take care of her.
The desire to save Santa Chiara, an enclosure built in 1297 and which once housed about 40 nuns and a children’s nursery, is not only from Panza and Punnacka. The inhabitants of Ravello expressed the same desire to defend the old convent. “It’s a piece of Ravello’s history. Although there were only three nuns left, it’s important to keep it (…) We are disappointed and perplexed by the Vatican’s decision, especially after they kicked out these two sisters only to move two others there,” he said. Gino Schiavo, who is part of a committee established to save the monastery.
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