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MOTHER TERESA BEGINS ´MOMENTOUS´ VISIT TO CHINA, HOPES TO OPEN A HOUSE

Updated: October 18, 1993 05:00 PM GMT
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Mother Teresa left Calcutta for China Oct. 19 with the Missionaries of Charity nuns throughout the world praying for her success.

The long-awaited visit remained uncertain until the end of September because Mother Teresa, 83, has been quite ill recently. She has a pacemaker and was hospitalized with heart ailments as recently as Sept. 18.

The Chinese embassy in New Delhi told UCA News Oct. 18 that Mother Teresa has a one month visa to China, although they were not sure when the 83-year-old nun would actually visit the country.

Embassy press attache Li Huming said the ambassador and other embassy officials are not aware of Mother Teresa´s China plans.

On Oct. 5, Mother Teresa told press persons in Calcutta that she would visit Shanghai, about 1,080 kilometers southeast of Beijing and that she is not certain how long she will remain in the country.

She will set up a home before sending her nuns to work there, she said.

Father George Pereira, deputy secretary general of the Catholic Bishops´ Conference of India, called the visit "a welcome move" and "a very good entry point to extend Mother Teresa´s humanitarian works to China."

The Indian Church, he told UCA News Oct. 18, is praying for Mother Teresa´s health because she exemplifies "humanitarian works where the Catholic Church is in the forefront."

Missionaries of Charity Sister Kochu (little) Teresa, superior in New Delhi, told UCA News Oct. 18 that the Missionaries of Charity nuns throughout the world are praying for their superior´s successful visit to China.

On Oct. 3, Mother Teresa´s feast day, nuns in the Missionaries of Charity headquarters in Calcutta, 1,440 kilometers southeast of New Delhi, were heard chanting, "We´re off to China" and "Let´s see who learns the language first."

Mother Teresa is accompanied by Sister Nirmala, a Nepalese and former superior of the novitiate and contemplative house in Chinsurah, about 70 kilometers north of Calcutta.

Announcing her decision to visit China in September Mother Teresa said: "I have to go to China, the Holy Father wants me to go."

Jesuit Father Edouard Le Joly, who was spiritual director of Mother Teresa and her nuns for 33 years, described the trip as "momentous." Speaking with UCA News in mid-October, Father Le Joly, 84, said he believes the trip "is an indirect recognition of the Catholic Church."

The priest said Mother Teresa´s "international standing and good relations" help her enter countries that remain closed to other Religious congregations and ban missionary activities. "As the Pope´s ambassador, Mother Teresa promotes peace, prayer, unity and ecumenism," Father Le Joly said.

Mother Teresa formally expressed a desire to open a house in China during a 1984 visit with Cardinal Agostino Casaroli, then Vatican secretary of state.

In 1985, she visited China with Sister Dorothy, the former regional superior of Hong Kong, Japan, Macau, South Korea and Taiwan.

Later Mother Teresa described her meeting with Chinese senior leader Deng Xiaoping and his wheelchair bound son, who showed her a home for the handicapped he supervised.

She lauded his work as "truly God´s work." To his statement that he does not believe in God so how he can do God´s work, she answered: "You are doing the work of charity and that is for God. Pray for me and I shall pray for you."

The Missionaries of Charity superior said she had clarified to China officials that to open a house she would have to be invited by a bishop and want a priest to attend to her nuns´ spiritual needs.

Father Le Joly recalled that the Chinese ambassador to India later visited the Missionaries of Charity Home for the Dying in New Delhi. He was moved by the nun´s service, Father Le Joly said, and promised to help the sisters.

In 1988, Archbishop Henry D´Souza of Calcutta, returned from a meeting of Asian bishops in Seoul with the news that China would accept Missionaries of Charity as long as they adhere to social and charitable work.

Reportedly, the Chinese officials wanted the nuns to wear Chinese dress instead of Missionaries of Charity´s traditional blue-bordered white sari.

More than 3,075 Missionaries of Charity now work in some 500 houses spread in 105 countries.

END

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