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1986: Pope and Mother Teresa feed the sick

VIDEO : Demonstrations mark Pope's India visit

The Pope has met Mother Teresa, head of the Missionaries of Charities order, in Calcutta and visited her refuge for the sick and dying.

When the pontiff arrived at the two-storey building in the heart of the city's slums, Mother Teresa climbed into the famous white Popemobile and bent down to kiss his hand.

He kissed the top of her head and she took him into the home she founded in 1950 called Nirmal Hriday, or Sacred Heart.

The building is housed in a wing of the Temple of Kali, the Goddess of Destruction and tends to the needs of those suffering from cancer, tuberculosis or malnutrition.

During his half-hour visit, the Pope who was visibly moved by what he saw, helped the nuns to feed the sick and dying.

He gave plates of food to those strong enough to feed themselves and handed out more plates to the nuns to spoon-feed the weakest.

'Happiest day'

He kissed and embraced some of the patients and called on God to "bless those who will soon meet you face-to-face".

He also blessed the corpses of four people including a child.

A Vatican spokesman told reporters the Pope was so disturbed by what he saw on several occasions he couldn't respond to Mother Teresa as she spoke to him.

There are currently 42 men and 44 women of different faiths being tended to by Mother Teresa's nuns.

Mother Teresa, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979 and is regarded as a living saint, said the Pope's visit was "the happiest day of my life".

She added: "It is a wonderful thing for the people, for his touch is the touch of Christ."

Outside the building, the Pope delivered a short sermon saying: "Nirmil Hriday is a place of hope, a house built on courage and faith, a home where love reigns, a home filled with love."

Earlier excited crowds of around 100,000 people greeted the Pope as he arrived in the city from New Delhi where he spent the first two days of his tour of India.

In Context

Mother Teresa, originally from Albania, died on 5 September 1997 aged 87.

Her Missionaries of Charity order, launched in 1950 with only 12 nuns, has grown to 4,500 sisters in 133 countries. They run homes, schools and hospices for the poor and dying.

The Pope was said to have been "deeply hurt" by news of Mother Teresa's death.

He so admired Mother Teresa that he granted a dispensation so the procedure for establishing Mother Teresa's case for sainthood could start just two years after her death.

Usually five years must pass between the death of the person proposed for beatification and the start of the process.

She was beatified just six years after her death in October 2003 at a ceremony in the Vatican.

The Pope himself died at 2137 (1937 GMT) on Saturday 2 April 2005 after he failed to recover from a throat operation.


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