Priest Stops "Beauty Contest" For Nuns

An Italian priest who had planned an online "pageant" for nuns has suspended the project, saying he was misinterpreted and had no intention of putting sisters on a beauty catwalk.

"My superiors were not happy. The local bishop was not happy, but they did not understand me either," Father Antonio Rungi told Reuters by telephone from his convent in southern Italy on Tuesday.

"It was not at all my intention to put nuns on the catwalk," said Rungi, a priest of the Passionists religious order, speaking from his convent in the town of Mondragone.

Rungi's idea appeared in newspapers around the world after he wrote of a contest for nuns on his blog, called by some "Sister Italy 2008".

"It was interpreted as more of a physical thing. Now, no-one is saying that nuns can't be beautiful, but I was thinking about something more complete," he said.

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He said his concept for the contest, in which nuns would vote for themselves on his blog, would include attributes such as their spirituality, social awareness, charity and other qualities.

Rungi wrote in his blog that his intention was to show "the interior beauty" of a nun and the work she does for the Church and for society, mostly in education and health care.

"We have to draw more attention to the world of nuns, who are often not sufficiently appreciated by society," he wrote, adding that he had hoped his initiative would help boost sagging vocations to religious lie. "Many monasteries in Italy are dying because of a lack of religious vocations," he wrote.

Rungi said he received a lot of calls of support but also many sharp emails by people who attacked him for wanting to create a Miss Italy-style event.

"Some of them were really nasty," he said.

(Editing by Dina Kyriakidou)

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