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"This is me saving my life"
[ 09:00 p.m. PDT- 04/27/99 ]

Sinéad O'Connor is now the artist formerly known as Sinéad O'Connor. From here on out, the Irish pop singer would like to be called Mother Bernadette Mary O'Connor. Speaking on Irish television station TV3, O'Connor announced Friday that she is entering a fringe Catholic sect. She claimed to have found religion and averted her own suicide by emigrating to the French pilgrim city of Lourdes and committing herself to the cloth. "This is me saving my life," she said on TV. "If I hadn't come here I would have killed myself."

The announcement -- following several incidents from a tempestuous personal life writ large in Ireland's press -- rings with irony. The 32-year-old Irish pop star, who hit with a version of Prince's "Nothing Compares 2 U" in 1990, provoked Catholic ire in '93 when she tore up a picture of the Pope on "Saturday Night Live." And last year she played a foul-mouthed Virgin Mary in Neil Jordan's film adaptation of the Patrick McCabe novel "The Butcher Boy."

O'Connor's personal saga has played out in the Irish press for the last several months. Her most recent clips tell the story of her decision to have a child with short-term lover and Irish Times journalist John Waters, whom she'd known for only a few days before deciding to have a baby with him. The couple split a few months after, leaving the custody of their daughter, Roisin, now 3, up in the air.

Last month, on the eve of a court hearing to determine custody of her daughter, O'Connor passed out for 36 hours after taking 20 Valium tablets and drinking three glasses of vodka. She sank into a deep depression. Nonetheless, she maintained that she hadn't made the wrong decision. "There is nothing wrong with the way we brought our child into the world," she told British newspaper the Daily Mail in March. "I wouldn't do it again, not because it was immoral, but because it was so stressful. This is what happens when you go around having babies with total strangers."

Last week, O'Connor was ordained by rebel Irish bishop Michael Cox, who heads an order called the Tridentine Church. The breakaway organization allows its priests to marry and holds mass in Latin, but still swears allegiance to the Pope.

Bishop Cox made headlines in Ireland several years ago when he launched a telephone confessional hot line operated at a call rate of 1 Irish Punt (U.S. $1.37) per minute. Bishop Cox was also known locally as the "Ghostbuster Bishop" because he claimed he could heal people and perform exorcisms over the telephone.

"She has undergone a period of study with me and I am quite happy with her sincerity and her genuine vocation," Cox said on TV3. "I believe with all my heart that Sinéad O'Connor will make a very fine priest."
-- Niall McKay

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