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Nun To Mediate Cuban Boy Meeting

January 26, 2000

MIAMI BEACH, Fla. (AP) _ Sister Jeanne O’Laughlin has a history of helping immigrants from Haiti, Romania, China and elsewhere.

So when negotiations over a visit between Elian Gonzalez and his grandmothers came to a standstill, U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno called O’Laughlin for help.

``I am very hopeful that the process can continue and that we will find a way to bring healing and reconciliation and some closure to this very human concern,″ O’Laughlin said Tuesday afternoon.

Elian, the 6-year-old Cuban boy in the middle of an international custody battle between his father in Cuba and Miami relatives, will meet with his grandmothers on Wednesday at the Miami Beach home O’Laughlin shares with two other nuns.

O’Laughlin, 70, said her role will be to be the ``welcomer″ and ``hugger.″ Both sides of the family have agreed to the visit.

The grandmotherly O’Laughlin, known as ``Sister Jeanne,″ has been the president of Barry University in Miami Shores for 18 years. She has also been a longtime community activist who is no stranger to delicate situations involving immigrants.

In 1982, she volunteered to help 600 Haitian immigrants assimilate into the community when they were released from an Immigration and Naturalization Service Detention Center. She took responsibility for about half of them.

She has also intervened on behalf of Chinese and Romanian immigrants, among others. She has helped some enroll in university classes and found some jobs at the school.

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