Did the Sicilian “singing nun”, Suor Cristina, win a TV talent contest because of the quality of her singing voice or the novelty effect of her Ursuline order habit?
As many had predicted, 25-year-old Sicilian nun, Cristina Scuccia, last night won the Voice Of Italia 2014 talent contest watched by an audience of millions on state broadcaster RAI 2.
Even as she greeted her victory by calling on the audience and her fellow competitors to join her in the Lord's Prayer, critics were suggesting her victory owed everything to the international media impact of the sight of a nun, in full traditional habit, long robes and flat shoes, belting out an Alicia Keys number.
The cynical view is that this is a "Monkey-On-The-Bicycle" moment. It is not so much that Suor Cristina sings well - it is that she sings at all. From the moment she first appeared on the programme in March, Suor Crisitina has been a media sensation. In that context, suggest the cynics, she was allowed to run out the real winner so as not to ruin a good story.
For her part, Suor Cristina last night appeared totally indifferent to any reservations about her talent, belting out songs like Girls Just Wanna Have Fun, What A Feeling and La Vita Bella from the Oscar-winning movie of the same name by Roberto Begnini with gusto and infectious enthusiasm.
For the time being, too, it would seem that her unusual participation in the world of showbusiness comes with the approval of the "firm", given that both the Catholic daily L'Avvenire and the Vatican's Arts Minister, Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, wished her well as she went into last night's final.
What will happen next to Suor Cristina? As winner of the talent contest, she has earned herself a recording contract with the Universal label, but it is not yet clear whether she will avail of that opportunity, or even be allowed to.
Her singing "coach", assigned to her after her initial triumphs in the programme, the rap singer J. Ax, yesterday said any money she might make from her recording contract would be redirected to an orphanage in Brazil, run by the Ursuline Order. Thus far, though, there has been no official confirmation of this.
Speaking on the eve of her spectacular triumph, Suor Cristina said no matter what happened in the talent show, it would have minimal impact on her Milan convent life.
Throughout her brief rise to fame, the sister has repeatedly said she sings in order to praise God, a point she reiterated yesterday, saying: “I am not thinking about that [winning]. But even if all sorts of things happen after the show, win or lose; even if there are record contracts and other offers, I will never give up on the biggest love of my life just to record a song. I won’t waste the greatest gift in my life, I will continue to sing in the streets, in church, in the parish hall, wherever the good Lord calls me...and I will remain in the arms of Jesus...”
For much of his pontificate, Pope Francis has called on priests and nuns to "go out" to the faithful, not to remain closed away in their churches or convents. It remains to be seen whether he will decide that maybe Suor Crisitina has taken him a bit too literally with her new-found singing career.