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Italy's singing nun Suor Cristina casts off her veil

The Voice winner Suor Cristina now goes by Cristina Scuccia.

Suor Cristina, the nun who won Italy's version of reality singing competition The Voice in 2014, stunned Italian television viewers on Sunday by announcing that she has abandoned her religious vows.

Cristina Scuccia appeared on entertainment programme Verissimo wearing a red trouser suit, with flowing hair and a nose piercing, minus her nun's habit and veil.

Scuccia, 34, told the show's presenter Silvia Toffanin that she now works as a waitress in Spain where she continues her dream of pursuing a career in music.

"If I look back, I look at my journey with a deep sense of gratitude", said Scuccia, who famously gave Pope Francis a CD with her cover of Madonna's hit Like A Virgin.

"Change is a sign of evolution but it's always scary because it's easier to anchor yourself to your own certainties rather than questioning yourself", said Scuccia, adding that she believes "you should only listen to your heart!".

In 2014 the singing Ursuline nun shot to international stardom after winning The Voice of Italy by presenting the cover of Alicia Keys' No One, earning the praise of the legendary Raffaella Carrá.

Within a week the video of her performance had clocked up some 90 million views on YouTube and saw her go on to duet with artists including Ricky Martin and Kylie Minogue.

Over the subsequent years she performed in the musicals Sister Act and Titanic II as well as singing to two million people at World Youth Day in Poland in 2016.

"Sister Cristina is within me" - the former nun from Sicily told Verissimo viewers - "I have had a wonderful journey but also a complex and difficult one. I believe even more in life and in God, faith has not gone away. It was almost 15 years of religious life, they were the best years of my life."

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