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"France's Mother Teresa" dies aged 99

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"France's Mother Teresa" dies aged 99

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Warm tributes have been paid to the Roman Catholic nun dubbed France’s answer to Mother Teresa.

Sister Emmanuelle, who spent her life helping the underprivileged, has died just weeks short of her 100th birthday.

She was born Madeleine Cinquin into a comfortable middle-class home in Brussels in November 1908. As a young woman, she led a bourgeois life, going to university and dancing with friends in her spare time.

But, in her early 20s, she took religious vows and began a long combat for the world’s needy in a journey that would lead her to the slums of Cairo.

After retiring from teaching in the Middle East, Sister Emmanuelle was over 60 when she moved to the Egyptian capital. There, she would spend two decades working for some of its poorest people.

Called back to France aged 85, she became a familiar face in the media. Sister Emmanuelle endeared herself to the nation in the same way as priest and activist for the homeless, Abbe Pierre, who died last year.

Her memory has been honoured by France’s political elite today, with President Nicolas Sarkozy among those paying tribute.

She was unorthodox for a nun, supporting contraception and marriage for priests. Her views ran counter to the Vatican but struck a chord in secular society.

As for death, Sister Emmanuelle said that for those who had loved in life, it was, in fact, a reunion.