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4 PROTESTING NUNS FRUSTRATED WITH VATICAN

Four nuns who locked themselves in a monastery infirmary eight months ago to resist liberalizations in their austere lifestyle are frustrated at the Vatican's inaction in resolving the dispute, supporters say.

"It's been a long time, too long," Betty Sutton, a spokeswoman for the nuns, said Monday. "It's tiring, but they're still hanging in there and holding their own. They're not going to give in."The four nuns and another sister barricaded themselves in the infirmary at the Most Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel on Oct. 4. They said they feared eviction because of their protests against a loosening of the cloister regime.

The nuns are tired of waiting for the Apostolica Signatura, the Vatican's highest court, to rule on the dispute, said Sutton, a private benefactor who has taken up the nuns' cause.

"They've kicked this thing around for almost a year now," she said. "We're going to start making some phone calls and try to light a fire under them."

The Vatican has declined to comment on the case.

The nuns are protesting the decision of their prioress, Mother Teresa Hewitt, to introduce candy and television into the monastery.