This isn’t your typical love story. Two former nuns from Italy just did the unexpected, and gave up their convent vows so they could proclaim their marriage vows and wed one another.
Despite the Roman Catholic Church’s long-held opposition to same-sex marriage, the two 44-year-old women, Federica and Isabel, tied the knot in a small ceremony last month. Isabel came to Italy from South America to work in a drug rehab center, where she met Federica a few years ago. Over time, the two became friends and the relationship slowly blossomed into a romantic union.
Before getting married, both women had to formerly notify the Vatican that they would be leaving the sisterhood. However, while the two aren’t allowed to continue being nuns, it doesn’t mean they’re leaving the church. Both have said they will continue to be involved in active practice of the Catholic faith. “We are leaving the convent, but we are not leaving the church and we will not forget our faith,” said Federica. For them, this is simply in God’s plan for their happiness.
“God wants people to be happy, wants them to live their love out in broad daylight,” added Isabel.
Italy recently became one of the last country’s in Western Europe to approve same-sex marriages, when its parliament approved the move last year. So far, this is the first publicized marriage of two nuns in the country.
Because of the Roman Catholic Church’s opposition to same-sex marriage, Isabel and Federica were not married by a Catholic priest, instead opting to make the union legal by Luca Salvai, a local mayor in Pinerolo, a town in Northwestern Italy. Salvai commented that the two had a simple ceremony and that he’s “happy to have helped them to achieve their wish.”
Adhering to their Catholic roots, the newly wed couple plans to celebrate their union with a separate religious service in the coming weeks. The service will be performed by Franco Barbero, who left the Catholic Church in 2003 after being excommunicated from the church by Pope John Paul II, for speaking out on the church’s view of homosexuality and other issues. Barbero has conducted hundreds of civil ceremonies since then and this will be his 20th in 2016.
To him their love story is no less valid than any other and said it was “like all the love stories in the world”. He went on to add “They got to know each other slowly… and in the end they discovered deep feelings. They are two beautiful people, with very deep faith.”
Barbero commended the two women on not taking the decision lightly, knowing that it was – to borrow from religious phrasing – “a leap of faith” and that many in the Catholic world would not accept their decision. “They thought about it for a long time and took their decision courageously, knowing it wouldn’t be widely accepted,” said Barbero.
Federica expressed her hope that others in the church would come to recognize it as simply two people who love one another. “We call upon our church to welcome all people who love each other,” she said.