Mother Teresa, `Saint of the Gutters', dies aged 87

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Mother Teresa, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her work among the poor in Calcutta, died yesterday after a heart attack. She was 87. She died at her religious order's headquarters in eastern India, a spokeswoman said.

The Albanian-born Mother Teresa became an international byword for her devotion to the poor, destitute and dying during nearly 50 years of work. She was awarded the Peace Prize in 1979 for bringing hope and dignity to millions of unwanted people, but she said: "I am unworthy." Her message was simply: "The poor must know that we love them." She said her divine call to work among the poor came in 1946; she opened her first slum school in 1949.

She took the name Teresa after France's Saint Therese of the Child Jesus. but in mainly Hindu India she was known simply as "Mother". She had been ill for years, battling back from the brink of death several times when many of the doctors who attended her had written off her chances of survival.

A few days ago she paid tribute to Diana, Princess of Wales, who had become her most high-profile admirer. They first met in Calcutta in 1992 and saw each other several times subsequently. They last met in New York at the end of June this year. On Monday, Mother Teresa paid tribute to the Princess of Wales. The pair were separated in age by half a century but formed a powerful alliance to fight poverty and suffering.

Comparing her to an "ordinary housewife", Mother Teresa said the Princess was a simple person, and a good wife and mother. "She helped me to help the poor and that's the most beautiful thing," she said, disclosing that the Princess had given money to the Missionaries of Charity.

The Queen sent a message to the Missionaries of Charity, Calcutta which said: "At this time of mourning for us in the United Kingdom, it was with deep sadness that I learnt this evening of the death of Mother Teresa. Her untiring devotion to the poor and destitute of all religions has been an inspiration world-wide.

"On behalf of the people of the United Kingdom, I convey my most heartfelt sympathy to the Missionaries of Charity."

Cardinal Basil Hume, head of the Catholic Church in England and Wales, said: "For our generation, Mother Teresa has been a unique example of genuine holiness.

"Ordinary people around the world have been inspired by her unshakable trust in God, her absolute commitment to the poor, and the strength of her love and humanity.

"It is rather lovely to think that Mother Teresa, who was very friendly with Princess Diana, should have gone so soon to join her."

The Archbishop of Canterbury issued a statement which read: "Mother Teresa was a truly inspirational servant of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

"Her influence was far greater than just within her own Christian tradition. It touched the hearts of Christians throughout the world."

Tony Blair described her as a "compassionate spirit". "In a week already filled with tragedy, the world will be saddened that one of its most compassionate servants has died," he said. The Indian Prime Minister, Inder Kumar Gujral, said in a statement: "Words fail me to express my sorrow. An apostle of peace and love, Mother Teresa is no more with us. The humanity of the world has lost its Mother."

Obituary, page 11