A cheery Catholic nun has clinched an Italian television singing contest after winning millions of followers with her lively dance act and soulful renditions of pop classics.
Wearing her habit and a crucifix around her neck, singing nun Suor Cristina immediately thanked God for her victory on Thursday in The Voice of Italy and recited an “Our Father” prayer to puzzlement among the organisers.
“I want Jesus to come in here!” said the wholesome 25-year-old with a self-effacing manner, who was dressed in the sensible black shoes and ankle-length black skirt she has worn throughout.
“My presence here is not up to me, it’s thanks to the man upstairs!” said Suor Cristina after winning out against a 28-year-old long-haired hard rocker who had just performed Stairway to Heaven.
Suor Cristina, a reformed rebel from Sicily who now lives with her order in Milan, has won a record contract with Universal although she has hinted she does not want a musical career.
“I’m not here to start a career, but because I want to impart a message,” said the soul sister, adding that she was following Pope Francis’s calls for a Catholic Church that is closer to ordinary people.
She shot to fame in recent months in this predominantly Catholic country with her versions of songs such as Girls Just Want To Have Fun and Time of My Life from the film Dirty Dancing.
It was a performance of Alicia Keys’s No One that first drew attention in March and she sang it again on Thursday to cheers from an audience that included nuns from her Ursuline Order.
There was some confusion when one panel judge – rock star Pier Pelu – joked she was the “devil incarnate”, prompting the host to quickly step in saying this was intended with “maximum irony”.
The talent show was also apparently being followed in the Vatican corridors of power, with top culture official Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi tweeting a quote from a Roman thinker: “If we commit injustice, God will leave us without music.”
Suor Cristina has already sung alongside Kylie Minogue and Ricky Martin and Keys defined as “pure energy” Suor Cristina’s performance, which received more than 50 million YouTube hits.
She has also received an endorsement from actress Whoopi Goldberg – the star of the 1990s comedy Sister Act where she is a singer playing a nun.
But Suor Cristina still defined herself as a “humble servant” and ascribed her sudden success to a “thirst for joy” among television viewers.