Four months after the historic approval of same-sex civil union legislation in Italy, two former nuns were "married" in Pinerolo, Piedmont on Wednesday.
Isabel and Federica, two laicised Franciscan nuns who met three years ago during their pastoral service to the church, undertook civil union in front of Pinerolo mayor Luca Salvai of the anti-establishment Five Star Movement.
“God wants people to be happy and to live their love by the light of day,” Isabel told reporters.
Commenting on the Catholic Church’s continuing rejection of same-sex marriage, her future bride, Federica, said, “We call on our church to accept all those who love one another.”
Even though the Italian Catholic Church and Pope Francis were strongly opposed to the civil union legislation, the Bill was overwhelmingly approved by parliament last May, 372-51. Those in favour repeatedly pointed out that Italy was the only country in western Europe that did not recognise either same-sex marriage or some form of civil union.
Isabel, who comes from an undisclosed South American country, and Italian Federica, held a religious ceremony after their town hall formality. Presiding over that ceremony was Don Franco Barbero, an excommunicated priest, who has "blessed" many same-sex couples and who was defrocked by Pope John Paul II in 2003, largely because of his support for such unions.
“They are two lovely people, of intense faith and with serious studies behind them . . . They prayed a lot about this and they reflected at length during a difficult process. In the end, they took their decision knowing that not many would approve,” Don Franco told reporters.
“Mind you not everyone in the church disapproves,” he added. “They were criticised but also understood by their fellow nuns. Just like there are many decent priests who do not condemn this type of choice. I can also tell you too that this is not the first time that I have married two nuns.”
Along the long and winding road to a civil union, Federica and Isabel have had to undergo the slow and awkward Vatican process of being laicised. For Federica, however, that hurdle is as nothing compared to one which still awaits her.
Born in a small town in southern Italy, she still has to tell her family of her decision. “It is not just that I have to tell my dad that I am no longer a nun, but I have to tell him how happy I am to marry Isabel.”
Both former nuns said this week that even “if we have left the convent, we haven’t left the church, we haven’t forgotten our faith”.