Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Fighting over Mother...

"By blood, I am Albanian.
By citizenship, an Indian.
By faith, I am a Catholic nun.
As to my calling, I belong to the world."

INDIA HAS summarily rejected a demand by the Albanian government for the return of the remains of Nobel laureate Mother Teresa, buried in the eastern city of Calcutta, now known as Kolkata.

“Mother Teresa was an Indian citizen and she is resting in her own country, her own land,” a foreign ministry spokesman said in New Delhi.

“The question [of her remains being taken back to Albania] does not arise at all,” Vishnu Prakash said of Mother Teresa, who was born in Skopje in 1910 in what is now Macedonia.

She left home in her teens for Ireland, after which she landed in India in 1929 to teach at a girls’ convent in the hill city of Darjeeling, famous for its exotic teas, before moving to Calcutta and founding her charity.

Better known in India and abroad as the Saint of the Gutters for her work among the wretched and dying in Calcutta, Mother Teresa was granted Indian citizenship in 1951, 22 years after she arrived in the country and began her charity work.

In 1950 she founded the Missionaries of Charity order, where she and a handful of nuns scoured the streets of Calcutta for destitutes and lepers and ferried them to the hospice, supporting them through their last days and providing them dignity in death.

She was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979.

Following her death in September 1997, she was buried in the courtyard at the Missionaries of Charity headquarters. It is a nondescript building in a poor Calcutta quarter just beneath the small room she occupied for decades, for the most part without even a fan in the port city’s perennially hot and sultry climate.
Albanian prime minister Sali Berisha had recently approached the Indian government to transport Mother Teresa’s remains back home, claiming she would be “more calm than anywhere else if she could rest next to her mother” and sister, who are buried in Tirana.

He said the issue would remain open despite India’s opposition.

“The governments of two states should talk about this in the near future,” Mr Berisha added, as Albania wants to reclaim Mother Teresa’s remains before the 100th anniversary of her birth in August 2010.

Missionaries of Charity spokeswoman Sr Christie said the order had not been informed of any official attempt by the Albanian government to have Mother Teresa’s remains moved.

Each year on the anniversary of her death, hundreds of people, many from the city’s poorest communities, gather at dawn beside her simple tomb and later conduct a candlelit procession.

Mother Teresa was beatified in 2003 by pope John Paul II who was so admiring of her religiosity that he waived the standard waiting period for her beatification in order to hasten her canonisation.

The Catholic Church of India, meanwhile, has welcomed the foreign ministry’s response that Mother Teresa was an Indian citizen. “We would want her remains to be in India,” Catholics Bishops Conference of India spokesman Fr Babu Joseph said.

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