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PASSINGS / Sister Emmanuelle

French nun lived among Cairo's poor

October 22, 2008|Times Wire Reports

Sister Emmanuelle, 99, a nun who lived for years among scavengers in Cairo's slums and who won wide acclaim for defending the rights of the poor and marginalized, died Monday in her sleep at a retirement home in Callian, a town in southeastern France.

Sister Emmanuelle spent more than two decades working with Cairo's zabbaleen, or garbage collectors, who eke out a living through scavenging. She helped create a network of clinics, schools and gardens to serve the children of the slums, and an association she founded now operates in eight countries, including Lebanon in the Middle East and Burkina Faso in West Africa.

Born Madeleine Cinquin in Brussels on Nov. 16, 1908, she spent her childhood in the Belgian capital, Paris and London, according to the association's website. A member of the Notre Dame de Sion order, she lived many years in France.

She moved to Egypt in the early 1970s and founded the association in 1980.

Upon her return to France in 1993, Sister Emmanuelle continued to speak out for the needy, regularly appearing on French television, her white hair swept up into a gray habit and her eyes sparkling behind large glasses.

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