Sister Emmanuelle dies after life-long fight to aid poor

October 20th, 2008 - 5:26 pm ICT by IANS  

Paris, Oct 20 (DPA) Sister Emmanuelle, the unorthodox and popular Belgian-born French nun who spent her life aiding the poor, has died at age 99, French media reported Monday.According to the Association Soeur Emmanuelle, which she founded, she died in her sleep early Monday in a nursing home in the southern French town of Callian.

Sister Emmanuelle was born Madeleine Cinquin to a French father and Belgian mother in Brussels, on Nov 16, 1908.

She earned a degree in philosophy at the Sorbonne, then took her vows in 1929 and became a nun.

She taught literature and philosophy in Istanbul, Tunis, Cairo and Alexandria, but decided to devote her life to helping the poor after seeing the deplorable conditions of trash collectors in Egypt.

In 1971, she decided to live among them, and did so until returning to France in 1993, where she became a media sensation after appearing on television talk shows to promote her causes.

She helped raise money around the world for the construction of kindergartens, schools, welfare centres and maternity hospitals serving the underprivileged.

In addition to her charity work, Sister Emmanuelle became widely known for her progressive religious views, such as supporting the use of contraceptives and believing that priests should be allowed to marry.

She was repeatedly voted among the most popular personalities in France and was often compared to Mother Teresa of India who devoted her life to the service of the destitute, a comparison she called “ridiculous.”

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