Madonna to be United With New Malawian Daughter

Mercy James, 3, leaves African country for London

By RAPHAEL TENTHANI
|  Sunday, Jun 21, 2009  |  Updated 4:58 AM CDT
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Lovelorn Celebs: The Madonna Edition

AP

A Malawi judge took mercy on Madonna and cleared her bid to adopt "Mercy".

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LILONGWE, Malawi – Madonna's new daughter has flown out of her native Malawi on a private jet headed for London, an airport employee and a person familiar with Madonna's adoption proceedings in this southern African country said Saturday.

The airport employee, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the matter, said 3-year-old Chifundo "Mercy" James left late Friday headed to London, with a stop in neighboring South Africa. The girl, the second child Madonna has adopted from Malawi, was reportedly accompanied on the flight by a nanny, a child nurse and a third aide.

The person familiar with the adoption, who also was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly, said the girl known as Mercy should have reached London on Saturday morning. Madonna has homes in England and in the United States.

Malawi's highest court had granted the adoption June 12, overturning an April lower court ruling that Madonna had not spent enough time in Malawi to be given a child.

The high court said the first judge had imposed too narrow a definition of residency, and lauded Madonna for her work with children in a poor country where half a million have lost a parent to AIDS.

Madonna's Raising Malawi, a charity founded in 2006, helps feed, educate and provide medical care for some of Malawi's orphans.

Madonna adopted a son, David, from Malawi last year.

Children's welfare groups had expressed concern that rules meant to protect children were being bent because of Madonna's celebrity, and perhaps out of gratitude for what she has done for Malawi.

Madonna met Mercy in 2006 at Kondanani Children's Village, an orphanage in Bvumbwe, just south of Blantyre. It was the same year she began the process of adopting David, whom she found at another orphanage in central Malawi.

The girl's 18-year-old mother was unmarried and died soon after she gave birth. Since Madonna moved to adopt the girl, a dispute has arisen between the girl's maternal relatives, who agreed to the adoption, and a man who says he is the father and wants to care for the girl himself, but acknowledged he had never seen Mercy.

Madonna first traveled to Malawi in 2006 while filming a documentary on its devastating poverty and AIDS crisis.

In addition to David, the 50-year-old Madonna has two other children: Lourdes, 12, and Rocco, 8.

Reports that Madonna would in the next few days visit her charity's projects in Malawi could not be confirmed.

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