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France Mourns Death of Sister Emmanuelle

France is mourning the death of a popular Roman Catholic nun who spent her life working for the poor - particularly the poor in Cairo. From Paris, Lisa Bryant has more for VOA.

Sister Emmanuelle died at a retirement home in southeastern France, just a month before her 100th birthday. Her death was announced by her association, and it did not take long for the eulogies to pour in.

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, who helped found the charity Doctors Without Borders, said the sister's faith could move mountains. He said it had been a joy to work with her. Jewish and Muslim leaders also issued moving statements.

A prominent religion journalist in France, Henri Tincq, told French radio that Emmanuelle cultivated a media-savvy image, but she also traveled around the world to relay the plight of Cairo's poor to the public. She said things honestly, Tincq said, and she lived by her Christian beliefs.

Born in Brussels, Sister Emmanuelle lived and worked with a scavenger community in Cairo for more than 20 years. She founded an association that built a school and provided trucks for the Zabbaleen community there, which has become internationally known for its recycling practices.

But she was also a beloved figure in France, where she moved in 1993. Polls consistently ranked her among France's most popular personalities and she often appeared on television talk shows - like this one, hosted by well-known French intellectual Bernard Pivot.

Asked on the show what her favorite word was, Emmanuelle replied with the Egyptian Arabic world Yallah - or go ahead. She said stop was her least favorite word because you must always go forward in life.