The Roman Catholic Church is investigating two nuns who took a vow of chastity, yet returned to Italy pregnant after a missionary trip, according to reports.
The two women, who belonged to separate religious orders in Sicily, had both traveled to Africa but now face an uncertain future within the church.
According to The Sun, one of them, a mother superior, found she was several weeks pregnant while the other woman discovered the news when she went to hospital with a stomach ache.
The latter’s religious order has not been identified, but local media reports say she belonged to a convent in Sicily’s Nebrodi mountains.
She has moved to Palermo, the island’s capital, to prepare for childbirth and is believed to be considering giving up monastic life.
The mother superior, whose age is not known, is based at an institute that helps ‘fallen women and their children.’
Nuns and priests must take a vow of chastity to become ordained, meaning they aren’t allowed to have sex.
“There is consternation at this news. It appears that both women were back in their home nations and obviously had some form of sexual encounter,” a church source in Rome told The Sun.
In February, Pope Francis said that priests and bishops have sexually abused nuns and used them as sex slaves.
While acknowledging the scandal at a press conference, the head of the Catholic Church said sexual abuse of nuns was “still taking place, predominantly in new congregations”.
He said the Roman Catholic Church was attempting to address the problem but said it was “still going on”.
Last November, the Roman Catholic Church’s global organisation for nuns denounced the “culture of silence and secrecy” that prevented them from speaking out.
The Pope’s comments come amid long-running cases of sexual abuse of children and young men by priests at the Church.