From HT Archives: An apostle of love and peace, Mother Teresa dies at 87 | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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From HT Archives: An apostle of love and peace, Mother Teresa dies at 87

Sep 16, 2023 12:00 AM IST

Mother Teresa, apostle of love and peace, died at 87 in 1997. Her death was mourned by the nation and she was hailed as the embodiment of love and compassion. She dedicated her life to serving the poorest of the poor and founded the Missionaries of Charity. She was a Nobel laureate and brought succour to the sick and dying all over the world. Her passing was a great loss to India and the world. Pope John Paul II was deeply moved by her death.

Mother Teresa, apostle of love and peace, who lived each moment of her life to wipe away the tears of the deprived and the destitute, is no more.

Mother Teresa’s funeral was held in Calcutta on September 13, 1997. (Girish Srivastava/HT Archive)
Mother Teresa’s funeral was held in Calcutta on September 13, 1997. (Girish Srivastava/HT Archive)

The 87-year-old Nobel laureate breathed her last at 9.30pm on September 5, 1997, at her home at the headquarters of the Missionaries of Charity after suffering a cardiac arrest.

News of the death of Mother Teresa, widely hailed as the embodiment of love and compassion, plunged the nation into sorrow and grief.

People came out in large numbers and gathered at the Missionaries of Charity in central Calcutta to mourn the “living saint’s” death.

According to an announcement, she complained of chest pain, and several doctors were called in but she breathed her last a few minutes later.

The Mother, who was hospitalised twice last year, underwent a bypass surgery and had a pacemaker implanted. She was due to attend an all-faith prayer meeting in the city to pay respects to Princess Diana.

The Mother, who stepped down as the head of the Order on March 13 earlier this year, after repeated health problems paved the way for election of Sister Nirmala as the new head of the organisation.

Baptised in 1929, the Albania born nun stepped out of the confines of a convent 50 years ago to “serve God among the poorest of the poor” and had been a guardian angel for the sick and dying the world over since then.

She chose to make Calcutta her home where she set up the Missionaries of Charity in 1949 to serve the ailing.

Her Order has 4,000 nuns running orphanages, homes for the poor and other charity centres worldwide.

Though bent with age and a host of ailments, her spirit and faith remained unbroken as she brought succour to the sick and dying of Kalighat, the victims of the Bhopal gas tragedy, the flood-stricken in Bangladesh, the starving in Ethiopia and the earthquake victims of Armenia.

After being named for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979, “the living saint” said, “I accept in the name of the poor because I believe that by giving me this prize, they are recognising the presence of the poor in the world.”

Mother Teresa rarely talked about herself. Her visitors to the Missionaries of Charity headquarters in Calcutta which included Presidents and Prime Ministers, millionaires, kings and kingmakers were baffled by her reticence. Her humility was illustrated in a published interview, asked if she had taken her name after St Teresa of Avila who also left her convent and founded an order she laughed, “Oh no, I have not called myself after the big Teresa but the little one - Teresa of Lisieux.”

President KR Narayanan and Prime Minister IK Gujral led the nation in mourning her death.

Describing her as ‘’an angel of mercy”, Narayanan said: “Such a one as her but rarely walks upon the earth.” Mother Teresa, he said, spread love and compassion throughout the world and brought succour and relief to the sick, the needy and the poorest of the poor.

“Though she was a world citizen, she was particularly Indian in the true spirit of our culture and her passing away is an immense loss to millions of our people,” the President said.

The Prime Minister, in his condolence message, said: “Words fail me to express my sorrow. An apostle of peace and love, Bharat Ratna Mother Teresa is no more with us. The world, especially India, is poorer with her passing.”

The PM said, “Hers was a life devoted to bringing love, peace and joy to the people whom the world generally shuns.”

Pope John Paul II, who had met Mother Teresa on several occasions, was greatly moved after he was informed at his summer residence at Castel Gandolfo outside Rome of her death, Vatican officials said.

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