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Last Updated: Sunday, 10 August, 2003, 11:47 GMT 12:47 UK
Nations row over Mother Teresa
By Nicholas Wood
BBC News, Macedonia

Tome Serafimovski has made plenty of sculptures of famous people in his time but none have caused him as many problems as the one of Mother Teresa.

The statue of Mother Teresa
Mother Teresa devoted her life to the poor of Calcutta
Officials in his native Macedonia had been planning to commission a full-sized version of her statue to give to Rome but then they hit a problem.

"There was an agreement to give Rome the statue but then a group of Albanian intellectuals said we don't have the right to do so," said Mr Serafimovski.

"They said the statue should be given by Albania."

Albanian politicians say they are angry at a proposal to describe Mother Teresa as Macedonian on the statue's inscription. They say she was Albanian.

Kudos

When Mother Teresa was born in Skopje in 1910, neither Macedonia or Albania existed.

The streets of the modern capital, Skopje, were part of the Ottoman Empire.

But now that the world's most famous nun is approaching sainthood an unseemly row has broken out over her identity.

Her ethnicity may have mattered little to her but it has tremendous importance in the Balkans.

Being associated with a Catholic missionary is a welcome boost for any ethnic group.

Compromise

Macedonian author Jasmina Mironski has been examining Mother Teresa origins.

Her mother was Albanian but there are doubts about her father's ethnicity.

Plaque commemorating Mother Teresa in Skopje
A Catholic, born among Orthodox Christians and Muslims
"Her father was born in Skopje as well but we don't know what he was by ethnicity," said Ms Mironski.

"There were a lot of question marks. There is no proof."

As the debate over the statue rages on many ethnic Macedonians have begun to believe that Mother Teresa was in fact Macedonian.

Such claims have infuriated ethnic Albanian leaders in the city who feel they are being robbed of their most famous kinswoman.

"The whole world knows that Mother Teresa was Albanian, as they know that the Pope is Polish," says Sulyman Rushiti, deputy president of the Albanian Democratic Party.

"And I think the Polish would be offended if someone claimed that he wasn't Polish."

There is now talk of a compromise and a replica of this full-size version in Skopje may yet get commissioned with all references to the question of ethnicity simply removed.


SEE ALSO:
Nuns given Mother Teresa copyright
22 Jul 03  |  South Asia
Country profile: Albania
19 Jul 03  |  Country profiles


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