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Spanish nuns shake up local election campaign

Published on May 21, 2015

Two Roman Catholic nuns have shaken up the campaign ahead of weekend local elections in Spain by openly backing Catalan separatist candidates, in defiance of the Vatican.

Instead of leading cloistered lives in their convents in Catalonia, the two nuns regularly appear in their habits on television chat shows and at conferences, and both are active on social media.

Sister Lucia Caram, a Dominican nun from Argentina who is critical of Spain’s conservative central government, appeared on the cover of Catalan daily La Vanguardia on Thursday alongside the nationalist head of the Catalan regional government, Artur Mas.

Caram, who has her own cooking show and nearly 200,000 Twitter followers, said at a campaign event on Wednesday that she was “in love” with Mas, who is pushing for Catalan independence.

“I don’t campaign for any party. I am here to exercise my vocation as an irritating fly,” she said at the event, before adding that she was in favour of a “free and independent” Catalonia.

Sister Teresa Forcades, a Harvard educated Benedictine nun who founded a small anti-capitalist Catalan separatist party in 2011, has regularly campaigned ahead of Sunday’s election alongside Barcelona’s mayoral candidate from the new protest party Barcelona En Comu.

The high profile of the two nuns has bothered the Vatican’s representatives in the papal nuncio’s office in Spain, who have asked them to tone down their public appearances, according to La Vanguardia.

“The nuncio wants me to shut up but they are not going to achieve this,” Caram said Wednesday when asked about the report.

When contacted by AFP, the papal nuncio’s office declined to comment.

Caram has accused Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s conservative government, which is close to the Catholic Church’s hierarchy in Spain, of pushing to have her silenced.

“It seems very sad that in the 21st century people from the Church mix with the world of politics,” Interior Minister Jorge Fernandez Diaz said.

Forcades, who backs a woman’s right to decide over abortion and was once called “Europe’s most radical nun” by the BBC, has also refused to bow down to pressure from the Church hierarchy.

She said earlier this week that she is thinking of taking leave from her convent for one year to stand as a candidate in a regional election in Catalonia slated for September, which Mas has said will be centred on the issue of independence.

Voters will chose new mayors in more than 8,100 municipalities in Spain on Sunday and elect new governments in 13 of the nation’s 17 regions.