India has rejected Albania's demand for Mother Teresa's remains, saying she was an Indian citizen - a decision widely welcomed in this country where the Nobel prize winner spent her life tending to the poor and needy.
An external affairs ministry official told IANS on Tuesday that Mother Teresa was an Indian citizen and there was no question of returning her remains. It was reacting to a demand by Albania, the country where she was born on Aug 26, 1910,
"Mother Teresa was an Indian citizen. There is nothing more to be said," the official said.
Welcoming the statement, the Catholic Bishops Conference of India (CBCI) said the church would want her remains to be in the country.
"The Catholic church gladly welcomes the response of the external affairs ministry that Mother Teresa was fully an Indian citizen. We would want her remains to be in India," said CBCI spokesman Rev Babu Joseph.
The church said: "Mother Teresa had all through her life and activities built up a strong bond with all sections of Indian society and she is respected by all in the country. And this was the filial relationship between the Mother and Indians, which cannot be overlooked."
It should also bring cheer to the many Kolkatans who were outraged by the demand to return her remains.
"She may have been an Albanian. But she became Mother Teresa because of her work in Kolkata. She came to India, and then selected Kolkata as her home and workplace. 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," Magsaysay award winning litterateur Mahasweta Devi told IANS.
Albanian Prime Minister Sali Berisha had asked New Delhi for her remains to be given to Albania by the 100th anniversary of her birth in August 2010.
The church had said earlier that the government should consult it and the Missionaries of Charity - the organisation she built up and headed in India - before taking a decision on Albania's request for Mother Teresa's remains.
Mother Teresa, who was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 2003, is buried at the courtyard of the Missionaries of Charity headquarters in Kolkata. She died in 1997.