Two former Franciscan nuns have entered a ‘civil union’ in northern Italy after being forced to leave their convent.
Following some controversy, Italy introduced unioni civili (civil unions) for gay couples in May, a legal arrangement similar to civil partnerships in the UK.
The women, both aged 44, signed on the dotted line this week in the town of Pinerolo in northwestern Italy, near the border with France. Mayor Luca Salvai conducted the ceremony, which was widely reported in the Italian media.
The women were named in press reports only as Isabel and Federica. Isabel told national newspaper La Stampa:
“God wants happy people who live love out in the open.”
She called on Pope Francis to formally recognise same sex relationships.
“We are asking our church to welcome all people who love each other.”
Signor Salvai said the event had been low key.
“It was a very simple ceremony. It is their celebration and I am happy to have helped them to achieve their wish.”
Next on the agenda for the couple is an unofficial religious wedding to be conducted by an excommunicated priest called Franco Barbero, who was forced out of the Church in 2003 for his controversial stance on gay rights and other issues.
Barbero said the couple’s story was “like all the love stories in the world”.
“They got to know each other slowly… and in the end they discovered deep feelings.”
They were “beautiful people”, he continued, who had carefully considered their decision knowing the opposition they would face.
Federica is an Italian national while Isabel comes from South America. The two women notified the Vatican of their plans to leave their order and enter a union but say they have no plans to abandon their religious convictions.
Federica said the pair now wanted to avoid the limelight and live peacefully.
“We are leaving the convent, but we are not leaving the church and we will not forget our faith.”