Vows in blood, branding with fire: Franciscan nun opens up about violence, torture in convent

© Jessica Rinaldi
A former nun of the Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate has spoken about the abuse she suffered in her convent. It included being branded with fire and made to write vows in blood, right down to being forced to self-flagellate and eat out-of-date food.

The woman, who made the claims, is now in her 30s. She says she was 17 when she joined the convent in the ‘90s. Speaking to Italian Corriere Della Sera, she said the Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate, based in Frigento, Italy were encouraged to write vows in blood by the head of the order, Father Manelli.

“Father Manelli was satisfied that we did this practice because it made our love for God more authentic, this eternal vow with God…made with blood.”

She also claimed she was forced to flagellate herself on a daily basis and to eat expired food such as yogurt and corned beef. Allegedly, she was told that if she consumed the food with “true obedience” she would be all right. That wasn’t the case for her, she told the newspaper - she suffered from frequent stomach pains.

In the interview she shows a card with her vows that she allegedly wrote with her blood on the day of her initiation in 1996, aged 17.

The postcard had an image of the Virgin Mary on the front, and words on the back written in a dark brown substance. The nuns were allegedly supposed to destroy these cards, but the woman says she made two and kept them.

“We pierced our skin with needles before writing on the card and we were happy to do it,” she said.

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Correriere Della Sera says other nuns and priests from the accused order have contacted them. These allegations first surfaced in November 2015, after an investigation was launched in the Vatican.

Father Stefano Maria Manelli, the head of the Franciscans of the Immaculate order, has denied any wrongdoing and has allegedly asked to meet the Pope.