Roman Catholic nuns in Poland who mounted an occupation of their convent in a protest against the appointment of a new mother superior are refusing to leave the building, despite being expelled from their order by the Vatican - writes Jonathan Luxmoore for Ecumenical News International.
The dispute erupted in August 2005 at the Kazimierz mother-house of the Sisters of the Family of Bethany, when the superior, Mother Jadwiga Ligocka, was dismissed by a Vatican delegate but she occupied the convent with other nuns.
"Let us pray for these lacerated, lost and highly strung sisters," Archbishop Jozef Zycinski of Lublin told Poland's Catholic information agency KAI on 6 December 2006. "There are no private religious orders in the Catholic Church where everyone can set their own rules."
Under a decree from the Vatican's Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life, dated 28 October, the nuns were expelled from the order, which was founded in 1930 and has about 100 members.
The Polish Press Agency PAP reported earlier in December that Ligocka and her supporters had hired bodyguards after again refusing to accept the ruling.
A spokesperson for the Lublin archdiocese, Mieczyslaw Puzewicz, said tensions had surfaced after Ligocka claimed "private inspirations from the Holy Spirit". He said she had ignored subsequent Vatican letters, and asserted that Archbishop Zycinski had in January barred clergy from priestly duties at the convent.
Fr Marian Kanior, a Benedictine historian, told Poland's Rzeczpospolita daily newspaper he had not heard of any comparable case affecting nuns in Poland. However, the incident follows several allegations of insubordination by Catholic priests in Poland, who were warned in January by the Vatican's nuncio, Archbishop Jozef Kowalczyk, they had a duty to obey their leaders.
[With grateful acknowledgements to ENI. Ecumenical News International is jointly sponsored by the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, and the Conference of European Churches]