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India

MOTHER TERESA´S PRAISE FOR CHIEF MINISTER´S GIRLS´ SCHEME CONTROVERSIAL

Updated: February 17, 1994 05:00 PM GMT
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Some Church officials here are complaining that Mother Teresa´s praise for the Tamil Nadu chief minister´s project for girls has hampered Church work in this southern state.

Mother Teresa lauded Chief Minister Jayalalitha Jayaram´s welfare projects for girls, destitute women and the aged, during a visit Jan. 20 to Madras, capital of Tamil Nadu state, 2,160 kilometers south of New Delhi.

Mother Teresa reportedly said that she and Jayaram, India´s only female chief minister, are "working for and fulfilling the same noble cause."

She said she would pray daily for Jayaram, whose projects include the Cradle Baby Scheme (CBS). CBS makes a creche mandatory in every village to care for and feed babies of working mothers at subsidized rates.

It was introduced in October 1993 under the federal government´s "girl child program." The program includes popularizing birth control through vasectomy, tubectomy and contraceptive use, especially in villages.

Jayaram also heads the state family planning council which gives gold medals to village nurses if they prevent a third birth in village families.

Mother Teresa reportedly found CBS "a great gift to children in Tamil Nadu" and promised to pray for the scheme´s success.

But some priests in Madras-Mylapore archdiocese say open praise for part of the program while keeping silent on the other is "embarrassing."

They also wanted Mother Teresa to speak about Jayaram´s measures that do not match Church´s values.

An archdiocesan official, requesting anonymity, told UCA News Jan. 29 that Mother Teresa hampers the Church´s work by endorsing the performance of a ruling political party facing allegations of corruption and misuse of power.

"Mother Teresa, for many non-Christians, symbolizes the Church," he said. The priest warned that another government will not take such support lightly.

Defending Mother Teresa, archdiocesan chancellor Father A. Vijay Kiran said she is "a holy person" who symbolizes love and compassion. He urged that her support for a good project not be taken as political support.

"Her visit to Madras has helped focus on the Church and the work it does in the service of the people," he said, adding that people regard the nun as a saint who "can do no wrong."

"Mother Teresa does not have to comment on every aspect of the government. She has only spoken on what she found was good," he added.

Mother Teresa spent some 30 minutes with Jayaram discussing various ways to "carry on the noble work in the interests of the poor in Madras City."

According to an official press release, Jayaram agreed to Mother Teresa´s request for a piece of land for her Missionaries of Charity in the state.

Jayaram also promised to give "utmost consideration" to another request by Mother Teresa: to exempt her sisters´ vehicles from state taxes.

END

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