Mother Teresa dead
Nobel laureate Mother Teresa died of cardiac
arrest at the Missionaries of Charity headquarters in Calcutta on Friday night. She was 87.
Missionaries of Charity sources said the Mother suffered a severe
cardiac arrest and passed away at 2130 hours.
A pall of gloom descended over the Missionaries headquarters as
grief-stricken sisters and nuns mourned the death of the revered
nun. The government announced early on Saturday morning that
Mother Teresa will be given a state funeral.
Baptised in 1929, the Albania-born nun chose to make Calcutta
her home where she set up the Missionaries of Charity in 1949 to
serve the ailing members of humanity.
The Mother, who was hospitalised twice last year, had a bypass
surgery and was also on a permanent pace-maker.
She was due to attend an all-faith prayer meeting in Calcutta on Saturday to
pay respects to Princess Diana.
Stepping out of the confines of a convent 50 years ago to ''serve god among the poorest of the poor'', the Mother had been a guardian angel for the sick and dying the world over.
Though bent with age and a host of ailments, her spirit and
faith remained unbroken as she brought succour to the sick and
dying of Kalighat, the gas victims of Bhopal, the flood-striken in
Bangladesh, the starving in Ethiopia and the earthquake victims of
After being named for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979, the
''living saint'' had said, ''I accept in the name of the poor
because I believe that by giving me this Prize, they are
recognising the presence of the poor in the world.''
In 1990, when Mother Teresa was hospitalised, the world had
prayed for her. Fitted with a pace-maker she resumed her work. The
Vatican once again installed her as the head of the Missionaries of
Charity, faced by the daunting task of finding a successor who
would not be overshadowed by her personality.
Mother Teresa had rarely talked about herself. Her visitors to
the Missionaries of Charity headquarters in Calcutta which included
presidents and prime ministers, millionaires, kings and king-makers
were baffled by her reticence.
Her humility was illustrated in a published interview. Asked if she had taken her name after St Teresa of Avila who also left her convent and founded an order, she laughed, ''Oh no, I have not called myself after the big Teresa but the little one -- Teresa of Lisieux.''
India's highest decoration, the Bharat Ratna, was conferred on
her in 1980.
For the care she took of destitutes, physically and mentally
handicapped, lepers, slumdwellers and socially exploited women,
the world community bestowed on her numerous awards.
The Ramon Magsaysay award came to her in 1962 and the government
of India honoured her with a Padma Shri the same year. In
1979, she received the Kennedy International award and the Pope
John Peace Prize.
The Jawaharlal Nehru International Peace Prize was given to her
in 1972, to be followed by the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979 -- the first
awarded to an Indian citizen.
The first Rajiv Gandhi National Sadbhavna award was conferred on
her in 1993. She was also honoured with Leo Tolstoy
International Award in 1992.
Though the award were given to her and were in her name, she
received them on behalf of those who worked for the Missionaries of
Charity and on behalf of the poor, to whom she had dedicated her
Born Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhia of
Albanian parents in Skopje, Yugoslavia, on August 27, 1910, Mother Teresa became a legend in her own lifetime.
''To meet her is to feel utterly humble, to sense the power of
tenderness and the strength of love,'' was how a great leader had
once described her.
It was at the age of 12 that she first knew she had a vocation
to the poor. One of her teachers had predicted that she would one
day became a saint.
Six years later, she joined the Sisters of Loreto, an Irish
order which sent her to India in 1928 to teach.
As she arrived in Calcutta, she promptly fell in love with a
city bursting at its seams. The prevailing poverty and plight of
the slum dwellers in the ''City of Joy'' inspired her to spread
god's love. She acquired Indian citizenship in 1948.
It was on a train to the hill retreat of Darjeeling in 1946 that
she heard the second call to ''serve god among the poorest of the
And one day with only five rupees in hand, she quietly walked
out of the school and the cloister, into the streets to face the
colossal problem of human suffering and to bring to it the soothing
touch of a single person.
Clothed in a white saree with blue border and a
cross on the shoulder -- the symbol of her new identity with the poor
of India -- she started a school in the slums.
She knocked on hovel doors, and put sturdy arms around ragged,
barefoot children, washed them. And, under a tree in an open field,
Her first helpers were local teachers who found time from their
duties. But soon she realised that a dedicated religious order was
necessary to carry on her work.
Out of this realisation was born the congregation of the
Missionary Sisters of Charity in 1950. A brotherhood of the same
nature was added in 1963 and the International Co-workers of Mother
Teresa in 1969.
The Missionaries of Charity, formally recognised by the Vatican
in 1965, today has 3,000 nuns working in 87 countries.
The work of the Missionaries of Charity includes running of
schools in slums, dispensaries, child welfare schemes, homes for
lepers and the mentally retarded.
Hundreds of beggars, lepers, the blind, the crippled, the dying
and the unwanted gather daily outside her mission in Calcutta for a free
meal. She gave the poor of the slums medical care,
schooling, a free meal, a slice of bread or just a clean place to
But these boundless acts of love were not without struggles and
difficulties. The very first of her institutions, Nirmal Hriday which opened in an abandoned dharamshala near the famous Kali temple, evoked strong protests from Brahmin priests.
The resistance, however, faded when she took a sick and dying
Brahmin priest and restored him to health.
On the very first day of the home which opened in 1952, Mother
Teresa literally picked up a woman half eaten by rats and ants
and carried her to the dharamshala.
As she began to cleanse her, the woman's skin came off her flesh
to the gentlest of touches. The warmth of human care and affection
could not save her.
Millions of destitutes have been sheltered and cared for in the
home and most of them have actually survived.
Slightly built and dimunitive, Mother Teresa eschewed public
notice, working in the obscurity of the slums. But her humble
approach could not hide the greatness of her work.
She was conferred with more than a hundred awards and citations
as her name became a legend in far corners of the world.
''The biggest disease today is not leprosy or tuberculosis, but
rather the feeling of being unwanted, uncared for and deserted by
everybody,'' she used to say as she shuttled between world cities
spreading the message of love for humanity.
''The greatest happiness I get from my work is when I see the
smile, the joy that creates love.
''The poor and the suffering do not need your pity. They need
your love, your care, your sharing. I want everybody to give to the
poor till it hurts,'' she would say.
How the suffering of the poor touched her heart is well brought
out in the jottings of her daily diary.
In the early days of her attempt to do something for the poor
she noted these thoughts, ''Today I learnt a good lesson. The poverty
of the poor must be so hard for them while looking for a home. I walked and walked till my arms and less ached. I thought
how much they must ache in body and soul, looking for home, food and health.''
Whenever she spoke, her appeal was to the heart:
''The unwanted are hungry not for food but for love, they are
thirsty not for water but for peace, they are naked not for clothes
but for dignity, they are homeless not for shelter but for
Like a devout Roman Catholic, she opposed abortion and condemned
it as the greatest destroyer of man in the world.
''There is no difference between a mother killing her own
child and people killing each other,'' she said.
Mother Teresa resisted, even at the risk of being considered
ineffectual in producing permanent tangible results, converting the
dispossessors into possessors.
In all her work both in India and abroad, she adopted the Indian
tradition in service.
She seemed to have assiduously cultivated the Indian outlook
and through her it was for the first time that the Catholic order
adopted an Indian dress.
For the first time too they lived and worked in the Indian
style, squatting on the floor, washing clothes in buckets at the
public taps and eating in the India style.
Mother Teresa spoke in fluent Hindi and Bengali to her suffering
And though her approach was Christian, she explained her work by
using a Bengali phrase bhovaban accham (there is god).
George Iype adds:
Navin Chawla, chairman, Delhi Vidyut Boad and the Mother's biographer, told Rediff On The NeT, "The century has lost its true leader. Mother had adopted India as her home and India had adopted her as the leader of the poor. Her compassion, love and charity is uncomparable in the world."
To Archbishop Joseph Powathil, president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of India, "Mother's death is a great loss to the world. She changed the world with her love and compassion for the poor, the sick and the underprivileged. People across the world will remember Mother as the champion of charity. India will miss its mother and its people feel orphaned."
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