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Last Updated: Tuesday, 2 October 2007, 01:17 GMT 02:17 UK
Feuding nuns force convent demise
By Christian Fraser
BBC News, Rome

Generic photograph of nuns
The local bishop had to step in to tackle the problem
A convent in Italy is being shut down after a fight between its last three remaining nuns.

So badly did relations deteriorate between the sisters of Santa Clara in Bari that the Mother Superior ended up in hospital with scratches to her face.

Now the local archbishop has intervened and asked the Vatican for permission to close the convent.

Sister Liliana is on her own there now and says she has no intention of leaving her home of the past 44 years.

The Clarissa nuns are regarded as the most austere order of the Roman Catholic Church, devoted to a life of prayer, penance and quiet contemplation.

But at the Santa Clara convent in Bari, the vow of silence was shattered by an unholy row.

Sisters Annamaria and Gianbattista say they were driven to distraction by the nasty habits of their Mother Superior, Sister Liliana.

They became so angry that during the summer they turned on her, scratching her face and throwing her to the ground.

The two nuns have now moved into a nearby convent, leaving Sister Liliana barricaded inside.

Despite the efforts of the Archbishop Giovanni Battista Pichierri to reconcile the three sisters he has been forced to call on the Vatican for help.

He wrote to the Holy See telling them the sisters had "clearly lost their religious vocation" and with only one nun remaining has asked for permission to close the convent down.

But Sister Liliana is not going without a fight.

She has been at the nunnery for 44 years and she is not going to be pushed about now.

She has written to the Pope telling him she will only leave when God decides it is time to go.

And since she is devoted to her vow of silence it is not that easy to reason with her.

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