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Mother Teresa still critical

Mother Teresa's health stabilised slightly yesterday, but she is not out of danger, doctors in Calcutta said. The frail, 86-year-old Nobel Peace laureate and charity worker is still suffering from heart failure and a chest infection.

"Mother Teresa is still conscious, but she cannot speak. She is still hooked up to a respirator machine," a spokesman from the Woodlands Nursing Home in Calcutta said. "She can only breath with assistance."

Attempts on Saturday to remove her from the life support machines were abandoned when she suffered a relapse. Her recovery has been hampered by recurring bouts of malaria.

Fitted with a pacemaker, Mother Teresa's weak heart cannot withstand the onslaught of fever. Mother Teresa was rushed from her convent to hospital on Tuesday night suffering from cardiac arrest. Doctors said that yesterday the fever subsided slightly.

"Her heart is now under control, but there is no appreciable change in her condition," the clinic spokesman said. "She is still very, very critical."

Mother Teresa is being treated by a team of the best heart and lung specialists in Calcutta. Special prayers were said for her yesterday at the many orphanages and homes for leprosy patients and dying homeless people which she has founded in Calcutta. In the city's St Paul's Cathedral, a Mass was held yesterday in which hundreds of people prayed for Mother Teresa to survive.

A volunteer at the headquarters of Mother Teresa's charity work said that yesterday a Muslim cleric also came to offer prayers for her. Even the local Communist chief, Jyoti Basu, who has been Mother Teresa's opponent as well as a grudging admirer, stopped by the clinic to wish for her recovery.

The switchboard at the nursing home was jammed with thousands of calls from her admirers around the world. But, privately, some doctors said her chances of survival are slim.

"We can't keep her on a respirator for more than a week. Otherwise her lungs will fill up with fluid," said one doctor, who preferred to remain anonymous.

At one of Mother Teresa's homes for mentally retarded women, a cook, named Kamala, told a local reporter: "I have distributed food to thousands of people. They are so poor that they cannot even afford plates for lunch and must make do with plastic bags instead. If Mother Teresa can help them survive, why can't our prayers help her survive?"