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Residents of a small town in central Spain were up in arms after five nuns were given an ultimatum to abandon their convent or face immediate expulsion from their order.

The bishop of Siguenza warned the five remaining nuns -- whose average age is 67 -- that they must leave because they were too old and too few in number to keep their convent open.

But the nuns, who have spent 40 years in the Asuncion de Espinosa de Henares convent, say they will move only if the pope tells them to.

Most of the town's 500 residents have rallied behind the nuns, who say the convent, its grounds and assets of some $600,000 were bequeathed to them by a landowner in the last century. The bishop says the convent was bequeathed to the church.

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