July 25, 2010 / 3:40 PM / 7 years ago

French nuns on the run to escape retirement home

PARIS (Reuters Life!) - Two French nuns in their eighties are on the run after refusing to accept an order by a superior to put them into a retirement home for sisters.

The octogenarians had been teaching in a school in south-east France for about 30 years when they were told at the start of July they would be uprooted almost 400 kilometers away and placed in an old people's home.

A third nun, who had also planned to disobey an order for the first time in her life, is recovering in hospital after breaking her hip, Le Parisien reported Sunday.

"At that age you don't move people about. It kills them," said the nephew of 89-year-old sister Maurice-Marie, who is in hospital and who was decorated with France's highest honor in 2009 for her dedication to education and acts of charity.

"These nuns need to be surrounded by their students and the people from the local community instead of medical staff."

The two nuns took flight on learning of their fate, refusing to leave their home since 1964.

The two are in hiding in a apartment lent to them by a Christian charity, the owner of the flat told the newspaper.

Odile Gaillard, mother superior at the Saint Joseph congregation, said at the end of last week that one of the nuns was extremely disabled and the congregation's council had made an informed decision after visiting the nuns.

The fate of the nuns is now likely to be decided by a religious court after all sides hired lawyers specializing in canonical law.

"They belong to a religious order and not a cult," a person close to the nuns told the newspaper. "So, they don't need to obey groundless and unfair orders."

Additional reporting by Laure Bretton

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