The Catholic Church has launched an investigation after two nuns became pregnant while carrying out missionary work in Africa.
The two women have not been named but they are both reported to originally be from Africa and now belong to two different orders in Sicily.
The pair were posted to their home continent as part of their charity mission, but upon returning home they discovered they were pregnant, despite having taken a vow of chastity.
One of the women, aged 34, discovered her pregnancy when she went to hospital with stomach pain, Italian news agency ANSA reports.
She is believed to belong to a convent in Militello, Sicily, but the 34-year-old has now moved to Palermo to prepare for the birth of her baby.
It is thought she may choose to give up her monastic life and focus on raising her child.
Salvatore Riotta, the mayor of Militello, said the news of the nun’s pregnancy left the village “shocked,” adding it “should have been kept quiet.”
The second nun was a mother superior, which is a senior monastic in charge of a convent or order.
She had been based at an institute which helps “fallen women and their children,” but reportedly returned to her home country after learning she was carrying a child.
Earlier this year, Pope Francis admitted many nuns had been sexually abused, calling it a “serious, grave problem.”
Speaking on his papal plane, he said: “We have to fight this, and also the service of religious sisters:
In May this year, the pope issued a new law to force priests and nuns to report sexual abuse and its cover-up to church authorities.
As well as taking a vow of chastity, Catholic nuns profess the perpetual “solemn vows” to live a life
According to the evangelical counsels of poverty and obedience.
Pope Francis vowed to combat the abuse of nuns, urging them to say no when other clergy members try to use them as maids.
A church source in Rome, where the Catholic Church has its headquarters, explained the news of the two nuns had caused “consternation.”
They told The Sun: “It appears that both women were back in their home nations and obviously had some form of sexual encounter.
“An investigation has been launched.
“They both breached strict rules of chastity but the welfare of their children is uppermost.”
The church source said the most likely outcome of the situation is that both women will leave their religious service