Sister Cristina/Madonna
Split picture of Madonna/Sister Cristina in VeniceMadonna/Twitter

Madonna has endorsed Italian 'singing nun' Sister Cristina Scuccia, who has released her version of the pop star's controversial single Like a Virgin, claiming they are "sisters for life".

In a twitter post, the singer wrote:

Earlier, Madonna also published a split picture on Twitter, in which a still from her 1984 Like a Virgin music video is juxtaposed with an image from Scuccia's own video, shot this year.

Both videos are set in Venice but in the original version, the 56-year-old American star hangs around the canal city in a white wedding dress with a man dressed as a lion. Scuccia's remake is more sober and soulful.

Upon the release of her version, Scuccia, who triumphed in Italy's version of The Voice, claimed she has only pure intentions and her song refers to an eternal loving force.

Despite the sexual connotations of Madonna's hit, the nun said she had no desire to provoke or cause scandal.

"If you read the lyrics without being influenced by what has gone before, you discover that it is a song about the capacity of love to make people new again. To release them from their past. And this is how I wanted to interpret it," she told Catholic newspaper Avvenire.

But conservative Italian bishops disagree.

"Whereas the use of the binomial 'holy water/devil' has much traction on the audience, not even the Americans of Sister Act would have thought of such a reckless move," a group of bishops said in a statement.

Then, they hinted that Scuccia covered a Madonna song with the intention to provoke controversy after unsuccessful sales following her victory on The Voice.

Scuccia said she wanted to transform the song from a pop-dance piece into a romantic ballad, "something more similar to a secular prayer than to a pop song", but bishops were not impressed with these remarks calling her a "naif" [a naive or unsophisticated person].

Scuccia's single came after an assembly of Roman Catholic bishops drafted a revolutionary document saying that homosexuals have "gifts and qualities to offer" the Christian community.

While the document was watered down after the inevitable backlash by some conservative bishops, it nonetheless signalled a shifting attitude on the Church's traditionally judgemental treatment of gay people.

Distancing himself from the rigid doctrinal attitude of Pope Benedict XVI, Pope Francis has adopted a merciful tone toward homosexuals, civil unions and cohabitation, hinting at a more welcoming church.