Mourners honor Mother Teresa at funeral Mass
Funeral attended by both queens and paupers
September 13, 1997
Web posted at: 3:40 a.m. EST (0840 GMT)
CALCUTTA, India (CNN) -- Surrounded by queens, cardinals and presidents -- but especially by the poor and unfortunate whom she devoted her life to loving and helping -- Mother Teresa was lauded at her funeral Mass Saturday as "God's gift to Calcutta and the world."
About 15,000 people attended the service at Netaji indoor stadium in the teeming city where, five decades ago, Mother Teresa began her hands-on ministry to the poorest of the poor.
"The warmth of her hands reflected the warmth of her heart," said Calcutta's Roman Catholic Archbishop Henry D'Souza. "Her goodness was contagious. It invited others to share."
"She taught the world this lesson -- it is more blessed to give than to receive," said Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the Vatican's secretary of state, who was Pope John Paul II's personal representative at the service.
Dignitaries from more than 23 countries were on hand for the Mass. But at the insistence of her religious order, the Missionaries of Charity, about half of the seats in the stadium were reserved for those unfortunate people Mother Teresa served during her life, who referred to her affectionately, and simply, as "Mother."
In that spirit, wine for the Eucharist was brought into the hall by a leprosy patient; water by a woman released from prison; bread by a handicapped man.
Mass said by pope's representative
The funeral Mass was said in English by Sodano, who hailed Mother Teresa's "extraordinary spiritual vision" and said she "lit a flame of love" that people should sustain in her memory.
In his homily, Sodano directly addressed criticism from some quarters that despite her devotion to the poor, Mother Teresa accepted poverty and did not do enough to fight its causes.
"Mother Teresa was aware of this criticism," he said. "She would shrug as if saying, 'While you go on discussing causes and explanations, I will kneel beside the poorest of the poor and attend to their needs.'"
Body adorned in trademark simple sari
Bible readings during the Mass were in Bengali, the language of Calcutta, and Hindi, the national language of India.
Mother Teresa's coffin -- kept open so mourners could see her face -- was set on a dais in the stadium, draped in the green, white and saffron tricolor flag of her adopted homeland.
Behind her, on the front of the altar, was a large banner reading, "Works of love are works of peace."
In death as in life, she was wearing her trademark simple white sari, adorned with blue trim. A rosary and cross had been placed in her hands.
She was serenaded by a choir of sisters from the Missionaries of Charity, who were adorned in the same style of sari as their longtime leader.
At the conclusion of the Catholic Mass, in a demonstration that her life's work transcended any single religious doctrine, representatives of other faiths -- Anglican, Hindu, Islamic, Sikh, Buddhist and Parsi -- rose to offer messages and prayers in honor of Mother Teresa.
World dignitaries on hand were then called to place wreaths on her grave, led by the president of Albania. Mother Teresa was of Albanian descent.
At the conclusion of services at the stadium, her body was to be taken to Mother House, the headquarters of the Missionaries of Charity, for a private burial.
Crowds turn out to view procession
Earlier, escorted by a military honor guard, Mother Teresa's body solemnly made its way through the streets of Calcutta to the stadium.
People from all walks of life crowded along both sides of the 5 kilometer (3.1 mile) procession route, which took the body from St. Thomas Church, where she had been lying in state for the past week.
In this predominately Hindu city, a crowd of perhaps as many as a million people turned out to pay their final respects to the diminutive Roman Catholic nun.
In honor of her lifetime of devotion to India's poor, Mother Teresa was given a state funeral, an honor normally reserved for major political figures and heads of state.
She was carried from the church on the shoulders of eight military officers, escorted by another contingent of soldiers in red turbans and preceded by a military band. Her body was then placed on the same gun carriage that took revered Indian revolutionary figure Mahatma Gandhi to his funeral pyre in 1948.
Crowds shower coffin with petals
The carriage, pulled by a military truck, was festooned with garlands of jasmine. Mourners showered the coffin with flower petals from windows and rooftops and hailed her with waves as the body went by.
About 15 minutes into the procession, crowds started to push into the street, trying to touch the coffin, as police surrounding it tried to keep mourners back.
Mother Teresa, 87, died of heart failure last Friday after several years of failing health.
She had spent more than five decades working in some of Calcutta's worst slums, ministering to the poor, sick and handicapped. For her efforts, she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979 and has been hailed as a "living saint."
Among the dignitaries attending the funeral were Italian President Oscaro Luigi Scalfaro, Jordan's Queen Noor, Hillary Rodham Clinton, the wife of U.S. President Bill Clinton, and Spain's Queen Sofia.
Correspondents Christiane Amanpour and Tom Mintier contributed to this report.
Mother Teresa special section