Catholic nuns hope for a Sister-friendly Pope

Now that the Vatican has begun its search for a new leader of the Catholic Church, American nuns are hoping that the next pope will be a little more sister-friendly.

Growing tensions between the Vatican and American nuns came to a head last April when the Vatican released a highly critical doctrinal assessment of the liberal Leadership Conference of Women Religions (LCWR), the main group representing 80% of America's 57,000 nuns.

The "crackdown" publically berated the LCWR, claiming they were "pushing radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith" and taking an unorthodox stance for failing to vigorously promote church teachings on issues such as same-sex marriage, women's ordination and abortion.

This assessment created further polarisation between the church and US Catholic Nuns, with Pope Benedict XVI criticising the sisters for "not toeing the party line".

The American Nuns issued a "fiery response" and a vigorous social media campaign ensued. Under the #whatsistersmeantome twitter hashtag more than a million tweets followed in support of the nuns.

Now that Benedict XVI has quit, the head of the largest group of American nuns shared with The Daily Beast the group's hopes for a new pope who is open to diversity.

Though nuns have no voting power in Church matters and would not be called upon for electing Benedict's successor in March, Sister Florence Deacon, president of LCWR said they were hoping to "start fresh" with the next pope.

"We hope a new pope would be open to dialogue with the US Catholic sisters and work with us to support our mission," Deacon told The Daily Beast.

She also said she wished for a Pope who recognised diversity and understood the"challenges" of "ordinary Catholics" who were trying to abide by the Gospel amidst modern challenges in juggling family life and stressful careers.

She added she also hoped the next pope would be open-minded and acknowledge that women walking away from the Church would be detrimental to its future.

"I'd like someone attuned to the voices of young people, especially young women who are leaving the church in the U.S in large numbers because they don't feel valued."

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