Rome, Italy | AFP | Former nuns “abandoned” by the Catholic Church, including some who became prostitutes to survive, have been sheltered at a Vatican residence for more than a year, a Brazilian cardinal said.
Cardinal Joao Braz de Aviz confirmed the house’s existence at an undisclosed location in Vatican City during an interview for the February issue of the Vatican’s magazine Women Church World.
In the wide-ranging interview about women’s roles in the church, Braz said existence of the home underscored Pope Francis’ desire to rectify abuses within the Church, such as nuns who are expelled from their convents with nowhere to go.
“At times they are completely abandoned,” Braz said, according to an advance copy of the issue released on Thursday.
“But things are changing. The most significant example is precisely the pope’s decision to establish in Rome a house to welcome in from the street nuns who were sent away by us, or by the superiors, especially if they are foreigners.”
Braz said he had visited the home, and had found “a world of wounds there, but also of hope.”
In some cases, mother superiors had withheld documents from nuns who wanted to leave the convent, and in others nuns were just told to depart.
“These people have entered the convent as nuns and find themselves in this condition. There have even been some cases of turning to prostitution to support themselves,” he said. “These are ex-nuns!”
Rebuilding trust among this group was paramount, Braz said.
“We need to change the attitude of rejection, the temptation to ignore these people, to say ‘it’s not our problem anymore’.”
The home has been open for a year and a half and now hosts fewer than 10 ex-nuns, Il Messaggero reported Friday, citing the order of nuns who manage it.
The women can stay as long as is needed to sort out their situations and find work.
Since becoming pope in 2013, Francis has often focused on helpless members of society, whether migrants fleeing persecution and famine, or the homeless, prisoners and prostitutes.
In 2016, he visited a safe house in Rome for women, many from Africa and Eastern Europe, who had been forced by traffickers into prostitution.