The proposed beauty pageant for nuns was 'misunderstood'

Rome, Italy - An Italian priest who at the weekend launched an online "beauty pageant" for nuns has been forced to cancel it because it had been "misunderstood".

Father Antonio Rungi, from Caserta near Naples, said he had "many" requests from nuns to take part in the contest, "Sister Italia 2008", which was due to start on his blog next month (September), with nuns posting photographs and readers sending in votes.

When announcing the scheme Father Rungi said many younger nuns in Italy were attractive, especially those from Africa and Latin America, although the idea was also to reflect "chaste, inner beauty" and explain the conduct of religious life in convents.

However some people had "deliberately misinterpreted an innocent initiative", Father Rungi said, and he had received a flood of abusive emails. "One of them told me I would end up in Hell". He said the idea had caused "too much commotion", and he had temporarily taken down his blog.