India to give Mother Teresa state funeral
September 6, 1997
Web posted at: 12:43 p.m. EDT (1643 GMT)
CALCUTTA, India (CNN) -- India's government Saturday announced that the late Mother Teresa would be given a state funeral on September 13. The announcement came as thousands
of people gathered in her adopted home city of Calcutta to pay their last respects to the "Saint of the Gutters."
Mother Teresa died of a heart attack on Friday in her
Missionaries of Charity headquarters in Calcutta.
Prime Minister Inder Kumar Gujral's Cabinet declared a day of
national mourning and decided to hold a state funeral when
the revered nun is to be buried at her religious order in
Calcutta, a spokesman said.
"As a matter of respect and homage, the government decided to
break out of protocol and observe state mourning Saturday all
over the country and to accord her state funeral status," the
spokesman told Reuters.
Mother Teresa will be accorded honors usually reserved for
presidents or serving prime ministers.
The decision to hold a state funeral came as a surprise in
tradition-bound India, which had already given Mother Teresa
its highest award, the Bharat Ratna, in 1980 -- one year
after she won the Nobel Peace Prize.
"Though she was a world citizen, she was particularly Indian
true spirit of our culture and her passing away is an immense
loss," Indian President K.R. Narayanan said.
Flags flew at half-staff throughout India as devotees
gathered in the rain at the headquarters of her Missionaries
of Charity order, to pay their respects to a small woman who
had performed big acts of charity throughout her life by
attending to the "poorest of the poor."
|Mother Teresa message on serving others:
243K/23 sec. AIFF or WAV sound
Mourners stood under a sea of umbrellas outside the religious
order where Mother Teresa's body, clad in her familiar white
sari with blue trim, lay in a coffin.
But only a handful were allowed in, and the rest were told
that the body could be viewed from 9 a.m. (0330 GMT) on Sunday in St. Thomas Church in south Calcutta.
Inside a chapel on the order's grounds, the embalmed body of
Mother Teresa lay in a coffin. Nuns prayed quietly, watched
by a privileged few, touching the exposed feet of their
The funeral was moved back to September 13 from Wednesday to
give more people a chance to pay their respects, sister
Nirmala, Mother Teresa's successor said. The date will be
just three days after the 51st anniversary of the day Mother
Teresa received what she described as a calling from Jesus
Christ to tend to the poorest and the sick.
Pope John Paul said Mother Teresa had marked the history of the 20th century as an extraordinary person who had made all
those "defeated by life, feel the tenderness of God."
World leaders paid their respects to Mother Teresa and
praised her selfless service to the poor and disadvantaged.
- U.S. President Bill Clinton praised her as an "an
incredible person," and Queen Elisabeth II, mourning the
death of Princess Diana, sent word of her grief.
- German Chancellor Helmut Kohl said that Mother Teresa was
"an example of goodness and humanity for millions of
Christians and non-Christians throughout the world. Mother
Teresa will remain unforgotten and be an example after hear
- Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad called the revered Roman Catholic nun an "example of selfless devotion
to charity. I hope she can be a good example to all charity
workers and philanthropists."
- Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif expressed Pakistan's sadness and said that Mother Teresa had been "a rare and unique
individual who lived long for higher purposes. Her life-long
devotion to the care of the poor, the sick and the
disadvantaged was one of the highest examples of service to
- South African President Nelson Mandela's ruling African
National Congress called Mother Teresa's death "a loss to the
entire humanity." "She will be deeply missed in our efforts
to build international peace, and a just, caring and
equitable world order."
- Albania on Saturday declared three days of mourning next
week to honor Mother Teresa, who was of Albanian descent.
The red flag bearing the black double-headed eagle would fly
at half-staff from Saturday through to the end of the
national mourning period. Condolence books would be opened in
all Albanian embassies.
New Delhi Bureau Chief Anita Pratap and Reuters contributed to this report.