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Mother Teresa calls Papal Visit ‘Gift of God’

January 31, 1986

CALCUTTA, India (AP) _ Mother Teresa, the Roman Catholic nun who won the 1979 Nobel Peace Prize for her work with the dying and destitute, says Pope John Paul II’s visit to India is ″a gift of God.″

Mother Teresa, called the ″saint of the gutters″ by some, is scheduled to meet the pontiff during his visit to Calcutta on Monday. John Paul arrives Saturday in New Delhi for a 10-day, 14-city visit.

″I am extremely happy,″ she said in an interview Thursday. ″Our father’s visit is a real gift of God. He loves the poor. That is why he has chosen to come to Calcutta. I wish we could also take him to our lepers’ colony in New Delhi but there is no time.″

The 75-year-old nun said the pope’s visit will strengthen the work of her Missionaries of Charity, which operates orphanages, free kitchens, leper colonies and clinics.

Christians make up 3 percent of the 750 million population in Hindu- dominated India. Hindu radicals have condemned the pope’s visit, claiming it is aimed at converting poor Hindus to Christianity.

″I look at conversions at another side,″ the Yugoslav-born nun said. ″If my mission of love encourages you to love others, your neighbors, and the poor everywhere I think that is also conversion.″

″Thousands of Hindus, Moslems, Buddhists and people of other religions have already become converted by our mission of love,″ she said.

Asked to comment on birth control, a major issue in India, Mother Teresa reiterated the church’s opposition to abortion, calling it ″murder in the womb.″

″We are fighting abortion by adoption,″ she said. ″If you do not want your child, give it to me. I will find a loving home for the baby.″

Vatican sources told reporters last week that the pope will raise the issue of artificial birth control during his trip to India.

The Indian government encourages voluntary sterilization and promotes the use of birth control devices, which the Roman Catholic church opposes.

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