Camino Nuns get marching orders

Camino Nuns get marching orders A picture of the recently excommunicated nuns. Photograph: Instagram.

Spain’s Catholic Church has excommunicated a group of 10 nuns after they refused to renounce their allegiance to a rebel former priest.

The sisters, who live in a 15th-century convent in Belorado on the St James Way pilgrimage route near Burgos, said last month they no longer recognised rule by the Vatican and claimed they were being “persecuted” over a real estate deal.

The cloistered nuns, who belong to the Poor Clares order and were famed for the sweets they made, including a mojito-flavoured confection, aligned themselves with a renegade priest, considered a heretic by Church authorities.

The nuns, led by their mother superior, Sister Isabel de la Trinidad, said they no longer recognised the authority of Pope Francis or the Spanish Church hierarchy and swore allegiance to Pablo de Rojas Sánchez-Franco.

Mr Sánchez-Franco is a controversial figure, himself excommunicated due to his support for sedevacantism, a movement that considers the papal chair is in fact vacant, as all popes since Pius XII, who died in 1958, are heretics.

“It is very painful to hear the mother superior say that the Pope is a usurper,” said the archbishop of Burgos, Mario Iceta, who on Saturday took the decision to excommunicate 10 of the 16 sisters from Belorado. Six nuns were spared as they were considered too vulnerable to be banished from the support of the Church.

Archbishop Iceta excommunicated Mr Sánchez-Franco in 2019. He has since formed the Devout Union of the Apostle Saint Paul, which he calls “the true church of Christ.”

Mr Sánchez-Franco is a follower of the ultra-conservative Opus Dei Catholic organisation. He has described Spanish dictator Francisco Franco as “our undefeated leader.”

The rebel nuns had been called to an ecclesiastical court accused of schism, but the deadline for their appearance expired on Friday. In a fax sent to the archbishop’s office, the nuns reaffirmed their “unanimous and irrevocable decision” to leave the official Church, and said any penalty imposed on them had no legitimacy.

Sr Isabel de la Trinidad informed the Church that the sisters had agreed to pay 1.2 million euros  to buy and renovate a property for their future use. To raise funds, they wished to sell into private hands an abandoned Poor Clares’ convent, but the Church blocked the move, saying the property was legally bound for religious use.