MILAN - A singing nun who has won over millions with soulful renditions and a self-effacing manner put her faith in a higher power ahead of Thursday's final of The Voice of Italy.
The 25-year-old Suor Cristina is already a talent show sensation thanks to her habit-clad performances but also has on her side the critics, who say her popularity stems from novelty value.
"I have a gift and I am gifting it to you," the irrepressible Italian nun told a panel of shocked judges when she started out in March in the amateur contest.
Public enthusiasm has been high in this mainly Catholic country for her lustful cover versions including tunes from Flashdance and Dirty Dancing as well as Alicia Keys' "No One" and the 80s hit "Girls Just Want To Have Fun".
As the suspense mounted, the Italian sister said on Wednesday she was leaving her future "in the hands of providence" and would remain a "humble servant" if she wins.
She attributed her popularity to a "thirst for joy, for love, for a message that is beautiful and pure".
"Since Pope Francis talks of a bible of joy... I think I'm on the right track," said the small-town native from Sicily, who trained at a musical academy before becoming a nun.
Sister Cristina Scuccia, who is up against three other finalists, has also won celebrity endorsements including Whoopi Goldberg, the star of the comedy "Sister Act", who tweeted: "For when you want a taste of sister act".
Her performance of "No One" has received more than 50 million hits on YouTube and Keys said it was "pure energy".
The performances have also beaten viewing records at Rai Due public television with audience shares of up to 15 percent.
She has already sung alongside Kylie Minogue and Ricky Martin and a flirtatious panel judge, Italian rapper J-Ax said she could be the "holy water" to his "devil".