By Nigel Ash.
Tripoli, 24 April 2013:
The death of two Tripoli nuns in a car crash almost certainly spells the end of . . .[restrict]a tiny religious community that has been in Tripoli for more than 60 years.
Their vehicle was in a collision with a truck in Beir Ghanam on Tuesday evening.
One of the dead nuns, the 83-year-old Sister Suzanne from France, would have been celebrating 50 years in Libya later this year. Sister Janine, 71, an Italian nun who died with her, had been working here for 40 years. They were killed along with a Libyan friend who had been taking them to meet her family.
A third nun, Sister Pascale, 69, from France, was very seriously injured in the smash and is in intensive care in Bu Sleem hospital, where her condition was this evening described as “stable.”
The fourth, and only other member of the religious house, Sister Maria from Germany, escaped with only facial bruising. She has, however, no recollection of the crash.
The Little Sisters of Mercy established themselves here in the 1950s. There has never been more than a handful of nuns who worked quietly and unostentatiously in the local community, wearing no identifying habit other than a simple veil. From their house off the Airport Road, they ministered to the sick and to mothers and children.
The Roman Catholic order was founded in 1939, inspired by the teachings of Charles de Foucauld and was once spread across the Maghreb as well as Libya.
At the end of January this year, nuns from other orders in Derna, Tobruk and Beida were all obliged to leave after threats from Islamist militants.
“They loved to share the life on the people among whom they lived” said Mgr. Dominique Rézeau of St Francis Catholic church in Tripoli, “Everybody liked them, because they were always ready to help people.”
Rézeau said that there had been many calls of condolence throughout the day from people shocked to hear the news, including one man, the director of a car rental company, who remembered them fondly as a boy.
“It it very sad,” said Rézeau, “They were beautiful people, joyful, simple people who loved Libya and the Libyans very much. They always worked for peace and friendship.” Details of the funerals and burial of the two nuns had not yet been arranged, said the priest.