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Nuns on the run in protest at move to old people's home

Two French nuns in their eighties are on the run after refusing to accept an order by their mother superior that they should be transferred to live in a retirement home.

The octogenarians had been teaching in a school near the Mediterranean coast of south-east France for about 30 years when they were told at the start of July they would be uprooted to live in a home for the elderly almost 400 kilometres away.

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

"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 in 2009 with France's highest honour for her dedication to education and acts of charity. "These nuns need to be surrounded by their students and by people from the local community, instead of medical staff." The two nuns are refusing to leave the area that has been their home since 1964, and are hiding in a apartment lent them by a Christian charity, the flat's owner told the newspaper.

Odile Gaillard, mother superior at the Saint Joseph congregation in Roquebrune-Cap-Martin on the French Riviera , said that one of the nuns is extremely disabled and the congregation's council had made an informed decision after visiting the nuns.

Their fate is now likely to be decided by a religious court, as all parties involved have hired lawyers specialising in canonical law.

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