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India rejects Mother Teresa claim

Mother Teresa

India has rejected a demand by the Albanian government for the return of the remains of Nobel laureate Mother Teresa, buried in the city of Calcutta.

"Mother Teresa was an Indian citizen and she is resting in her own country, her own land," Foreign Ministry spokesman Vishnu Prakash said.

A spokeswoman for the nun's Missionaries of Charity described the Albanian request as "absurd".

Mother Teresa, an ethnic Albanian, was born in Skopje, now part of Macedonia.

Correspondents say that the row over her resting place could develop into an ugly three-way squabble between India, where she worked most of her life, Albania where her parents came from and Macedonia where she lived the first 18 years of her life.

The row is expected to intensify by August next year - the 100th anniversary of Mother Teresa's birth - by which time many commentators expect her to have been canonised as a saint.

The ethnic Albanian nun, who was known as the "Saint of the Gutters" for her work among the poor of Calcutta, was given Indian citizenship in 1951.

'She is India's'

"The question [of her remains being taken back to Albania] does not arise at all," Mr Prakash said.

Mother Teresa's funeral in India
Mother Teresa was given a rousing Indian farewell at her funeral

After her death in September 1997, Mother Teresa was buried at the Calcutta headquarters of the Missionaries of Charity (MoC), which is now a pilgrimage site.

"We welcome Delhi's decision. Mother Teresa is Calcutta's, she is India's. It is absurd for Albania to expect her last remains," MoC spokeswoman Sunita Kumar told the BBC.

In comments reported over the weekend, Albanian Prime Minister Sali Berisha said his government would intensify efforts to reclaim her remains before her birth centenary.

Born Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu in 1910, Mother Teresa arrived in India as a novice in 1929 and dedicated herself to working among the sick, dying and destitute.

She took the name of Teresa on taking her vows as a nun in 1931 and in 1950 established the order which runs homes for abandoned children, the elderly and those suffering from leprosy and Aids.

The MoC grew to include 3,000 nuns and 400 brothers in 87 countries, tending to the poor and dying in the slums of 160 cities.

In 1979, she accepted the Nobel Peace Prize on behalf of "the throwaway of society". She asked that the grand gala dinner be cancelled and the proceeds be given to the poor of Calcutta.

Mother Teresa once said: "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."

She was beatified - the first stage in becoming a saint - in 2003 by Pope John Paul II. It was done in record time in the modern era.

Mother Teresa's beatification has now paved the way for her canonisation, which many expect will happen soon.



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