Vatican closes monastery that attracted aristocrats, dancing nun

May 26, 2011

VATICAN CITY (RNS) The Vatican has closed the monastery of a
fourth-century Roman basilica on account of "liturgical and financial
irregularities" that included performances by a nun who had once been a
lap dancer.

The Vatican cited "behavior not consonant with the monastic life" at
the monastery attached to the Basilica of Santa Croce in Gerusalemme,
which houses some of the Catholic Church's most venerated relics.

The monastery had become well-known in recent years for its links to
Rome's high society, and for sponsoring a televised Bible-reading
marathon by celebrities, including Pope Benedict XVI in 2008.

That same year, pop singer Madonna visited the church and reportedly
admired its collection of relics, which include pieces of the "True
Cross," and a bone supposedly from the finger that St. Thomas put inside
Jesus' wounds following the Resurrection.

Two years ago, the Vatican removed the monastery's abbot, the Rev.
Simone Fioraso, who is said to have been a fashion designer in Milan
before entering religious life. Fioraso became known for cultivating the
monastery's benefactors among Italian aristocracy.

The monastery also hosted shows by Sister Anna Nobili, a former lap
dancer whose unconventional performances involving a crucifix can still
be seen on YouTube.

The Rev. Ciro Benedettini, deputy director of the Holy See Press
Office, said the Vatican had ordered approximately 20 Cistercian monks
still living at the church to move to other monasteries in Italy, ending
a 450-year presence by their order at Santa Croce. Monks have been
living at the monastery since the 10th century.