Elderly Italian nun told she must leave Iran

Elderly Italian nun told she must leave Iran

Isfahan’s last two nuns, Fabiola Weiss and Giuseppina Berti, have been told they must leave their convent, while Sister Berti must leave Iran.

An elderly Italian nun who has dedicated her life to helping Iran’s poor and needy has been told her visa will not be renewed.

Sister Giuseppina Berti, who is 75 years old, worked for 26 years at a leprosy hospital in the north-western city of Tabriz, before moving to a convent in Isfahan.

But according to the Vatican News Agency, she has been told she must leave Iran in the coming days. 

The news agency says the nun’s departure will be a particularly heavy blow for the only other remaining nun at the Isfahan convent, Fabiola Weiss, a 77-year-old from Austria who worked for nearly 40 years in the leprosy hospital before moving to Isfahan.

Sister Weiss’s residency permit has been renewed for another year, but she has also been told she must leave the convent, meaning the presence of the Roman Catholic Church in the city will be “permanently lost”, warns the report.

Since the Isfahan convent was built in 1937, the nuns have “dedicated themselves to the education and training of young people”, according to the report, and used to run a large school before its confiscation after the 1979 revolution.

However, in recent years, Sisters Berti and Weiss reportedly “did not carry out any outside activities, to avoid being accused of proselytizing”.

“It is to be hoped that the Iranian authorities will retrace their steps and reconsider their decision, allowing the sisters to continue in the country that they have loved so much and served with sacrifice and dedication,” the report concludes.

All that now remains of the Catholic Church in Iran, according to the report, is two Assyrian archdioceses, which between them have one bishop and four priests; an Armenian diocese, which has just one bishop; and a Roman Catholic archdiocese, which hasn’t had a priest for six years and is still awaiting the arrival of new archbishop Dominique Mathieu, who was consecrated in February but has not yet been issued a visa.

There are reportedly a further three nuns in Tehran, and two consecrated laywomen.