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Nuns defy Vatican to follow political calling

Jessica Jones · 20 May 2015, 13:12

Published: 20 May 2015 13:12 GMT+02:00

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Not content to spend their days praying in the cloistered surroundings of their convents far removed from the world of politics outside its door, two sisters from Catalonia have decided to get in on the act.

Despite belonging to a closed order, Dominican nun Lucía Caram rarely stays behind the convent walls. The television regular pops up on everything from morning chat shows to her own programme on Spain’s cooking channel, in which she teaches viewers to make traditional recipes including Argentinian empanadas.  

"I’m convinced that food unites people, that it makes a family, it makes a community and after dinner conversation calms people, helping them to share what they carry in their hearts and to transform our world," Sister Lucia told Catalan daily La Vanguardia. 

She also likes to wade in on political issues, making no secret of the fact that she supports Catalan independence and gets on well with Catalan president Artur Mas, strongly endorsing his Convergence and Union coalition.

She also urged her 186,000 Twitter followers not to vote for Ada Colau, a Barcelona mayoral candidate stemming from Spain’s "indignados" movement.

But now Vatican officials are trying to force the nun to give up her media life. She has received a verbal warning from the Vatican’s ambassador to Spain that her constant media exposure is incompatible with her religious life.

Caram’s convent is under the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Vic, Romà Casanova, known to be one of the more conservative voices within the Spanish Catholic Church. Catalan daily La Vanguardia reported that within religious circles, it is well known that Bishop Casanova does not approve of Sister Caram’s high profile life.

The Spanish government in Madrid has also been accused of taking a stance against Sister Caram, with Catalan President Artur Mas saying that it did not surprise him that “the Spanish state was in the middle of things” concerning the nun.

But Sister Caram is steadfastly refusing to bow down to pressure from the Church hierarchy to shut up; she appeared at a political rally on Wednesday May 20th with Mas and Barcelona mayor Xavier Trias.

During the rally she said that she was merely "following her vocation to be a 'monja cojonera' or a pain in the arse of a nun," according to La Vanguardia.

Amazingly, she is not the only Barcelona-based nun who is defying the Vatican. On the opposite side of the political fence to Sister Caram is Sister Teresa Forcades, a Harvard educated Benedictine nun who has become a surprising leader of the anti-establishment.

Sister Teresa Forcades. Photo: AFP

Sister Forcades, a ferocious supporter of left-wing mayoral candidate Ada Colau. has even gone so far as to say she will temporarily abandon religious life in favour of running for political office in Catalonia’s regional elections in September. 

Story continues below…

She announced this week that she would stand as for regional president in the September elections on the Procés Constituent a Catalunya platform that she co-founded in 2011, taking a sabbatical from the convent but not giving up her calling completely.

"There's a possibilty I can get leave from the convent for a year or possibly two. This would mean stopping being a nun only temporarily. After a year or two, I could then go back to the convent," she said in an open letter written to her supporters this week. 

Her anti-austerity platform has much in common with Podemos and she is also a strong advocate for an independent Catalonia.

If a scruffy ponytailed university lecturer can rise from nothing to become the voice of disaffected Spain, is it so farfetched to imagine a nun in a habit taking political office? 


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Jessica Jones (jessica.jones@thelocal.com)

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