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Updated: October 14, 2009 01:59 IST

India rejects Albania’s claim to Mother Teresa’s remains

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Mother Teresa.
The Hindu photo archives Mother Teresa.

“Mother Teresa was an Indian citizen and she is resting in her own country. The question does not arise,” Vishnu Prakash, Ministry of External Affairs spokesman.

India has rejected an Albanian claim to Mother Teresa’s remains because she was an Indian citizen, a government spokesman said on Tuesday.

Albanian Prime Minister, Sali Berisha, was reported to have said on Saturday that his government was in negotiations with India for the return of Mother Teresa’s mortal remains to Albania in time for her birth centenary in August 2010.

Born Agnese Gonxhe Bojaxhiu to an ethnic Albanian family living in Skopje, Macedonia, Mother Teresa went to India as a Roman Catholic nun in 1929 when she was 18.

In 1950, she founded the order of the Missionaries of Charity in the eastern Indian city of Kolkata, where she lived, running hospices for destitute old people and orphans, until she died in 1997.

Mother Teresa, who took Indian citizenship in 1948, is buried at the Mother House, the headquarters of the Missionaries of Charity in Kolkata. Reports of Prime Minister Berisha’s comments sparked outrage and consternation among her many admirers in India. “She may have been an Albanian, but she became Mother Teresa because of her work in India,” Kolkata-based author Mahashweta Devi was quoted as saying by IANS news agency. “She lived here by choice. She also died here. So I think in respect to her memory her remains should be allowed to remain here,” Ms. Devi said.

Sunita Kumar, who has written a book on Mother Teresa and was close to her, said: “Mother always saw India as her home. Whenever she was ill while travelling and I would ask her if I could anything for her, she would say, ‘I want to go home.’” Eminent photographer Raghu Rai said, “She is our mother. How can you give away your mother?” but added it was not for governments to decide but up to the Missionaries of Charity.

“We have not been informed about this claim so we cannot say anything right now,” Sister Christie, spokeswoman for the Missionaries of Charity, said.

However, the Indian government seems to have set the controversy at rest. “Mother Teresa was an Indian citizen and she is resting in her own country. The question does not arise,” Ministry of External Affairs spokesman, Vishnu Prakash, said.

Mother Teresa won the Nobel Peace prize in 1979 and India’s highest civilian honour, the Bharat Ratna, in 1980.

She was beatified by the Vatican in 2003 as a first step towards canonization.

Her Missionaries of Charity now has over 4,500 sisters and is active in 133 countries.

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