Newry crash: Sister Marie Duddy and Sister Frances Forde killed
The two nuns who died in a collision involving an unmarked police vehicle in County Down were Sister Marie Duddy and Sister Frances Forde.
They died in a two-vehicle crash close to Newry, on the Belfast Road near the Derrycraw Road junction just before 09:30 BST on Tuesday.
Three policemen suffered minor injuries in the collision.
The nuns were members of the Sister of Mercy order based at Ballysillan House, Crumlin Road, Belfast.
In a statement, the northern province of the Mercy Order said they were "saddened and shocked" by the news.
"We, their Mercy family, are struggling to cope with their sudden parting from us, we take comfort from the example of their lives, lived in the service of God and God's people," the statement said.
The Bishop of Down and Connor, Noel Treanor, extended his "deepest sympathy" to the family and friends of the two women.
"This sudden and shocking loss of life leaves an impact, not only upon all those who have known the sisters, but upon the wider community in which they served," he said.
"Over the years, these sisters have blessed the Church with ministries ranging from healthcare, education, spiritual guidance and cross community and inter-faith dialogue."
Rev Norman Hamilton, former minister of Ballysillan Presbyterian Church, said he knew the nuns well.
"I knew them as two gracious, warm-hearted ladies, who were always concerned for the welfare of other people, no matter who they were," he said.
"You would meet them in the street, or you'd meet them at the door and they were smiling.
"To lose two friends, so suddenly like this, is a genuine shock to me."
The women were travelling from Belfast to the Dromantine Retreat and Conference Centre on the Glen Road, Newry, when the crash happened.
A spokesman for the police ombudsman's office said an independent investigation was under way.
"We have been at the scene since early morning," he said.
"We have conducted house-to-house inquiries and we have spoken to witnesses."
SDLP MLA Dominic Bradley drove past the crash site as the police were closing the road.
"It's a tragic accident," he said.
"Two people have lost their lives, that is very sad. Our roads are very dangerous."
Newry mayor Sinn Féin's Dáire Hughes said: "This is horrendous news, in particular, coming on the back of the deaths of a cyclist last week and a young man killed in a traffic incident near Carlingford last night.
"The thoughts and prayers of the Newry and Mourne community are with the families and friends of those who have sadly lost their lives today."