A nun from El Salvador who gave birth to a baby boy in Italy has described him as "a gift of God" and pledged to take care of him as she faces expulsion from the convent.
Sister Roxana Rodriguez (33) was rushed to San Camillo de Lellis hospital in the town of Rieti, 50 miles north of Rome, late last Tuesday with acute stomach pains -- apparently unaware that she was pregnant.
A few hours later, a baby boy, weighing nearly nine pounds, was born and Sr Roxana named him Francesco in honour of the Pope.
The father of the child is believed to be in El Salvador.
"I will definitely take care of my baby because he is a gift of God," Sr Roxana told social worker Anna Fontanella. "I called him Francis in honour of our South American pope.
"However, I am very worried about the commotion that this has stirred up. They are talking about this, not only in Italy but in my own country and I am afraid to return there."
The baby's birth has provoked an outcry in the Catholic Church since Sr Roxana took a vow of "poverty, chastity and obedience" when she became a nun in September 2012.
"How do I feel? More like a mum than a nun," she said after the birth of the baby.
But until the birth she was convinced she was suffering from an ongoing gastric infection and cystitis, a bladder infection, and thought the swelling in her abdomen was related to poor digestion. She had also lost track of her menstrual cycle.
When doctors conducted an ultrasound and told her she was in an advanced stage of pregnancy she screamed: "I can't give birth, I am a nun."
Father Benedetto Falcetti, head of the regional branch of the Catholic charity Caritas, said Sr Roxana appeared to have become pregnant when she returned home to renew her passport.
"It all happened in El Salvador between March and April last year," he said. "It was the rekindling of a childhood flame."
Local bishop Delio Lucarelli said Sr Roxana would have to leave the Little Disciples of Jesus convent where she has lived at Campomoro, near Rieti. The head of the convent, Sister Erminia Pusceddu, said: "She did not know how to resist temptation."
Sr Roxana has also written a letter of apology to the order's mother superior, Elvira Petaraca, for breaking her vows.
Hospital staff have donated nappies, clothing and other items to the mother while Simone Petrangeli, mayor of Rieti, also offered assistance.