Beauty Pageant Aims to Freshen Up Nuns' PR

Italian Priest Working to Bust Stereotypes

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Just what the clergy needs: marketing.

According to the Associated Press, an Italian priest hopes to buoy the image of nuns by running a "Miss Sister 2008" beauty contest complete with website. As recruitment at convents wanes, the idea is to drum up business by busting the stereotype that nuns look like beefy drill sergeants in habits. Nunsense. Some in fact, look like -- well, Sally Field or Loretta Young.

Of course, the padre went out of his way to say this will be a respectful pageant -- surely not the Catholic Church meets "Calendar Girls."

"We are not going to parade nuns in bathing suits," Antonio Rungi is quoted as saying by the news service, speaking by telephone from the town of Mondragone. "But being ugly is not a requirement for becoming a nun. External beauty is a gift from God, and we mustn't hide it."

The idea did not come from divine intervention, however --the priest said the notion came from sisters themselves.

UPDATE: On Aug. 26, the day after the original report, Reuters said the good father had -- well, repented, when it comes to the contest. "My superiors were not happy. The local bishop was not happy, but they did not understand me either," he was quoted as telling the news service. "It was not at all my intention to put nuns on the catwalk." And so, it appears new recruitment methods might be in order.
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