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Gun Carriage to Take Mother Teresa to Burial

Funeral: Military trappings of event stir controversy. But some see ceremony as nation's most prestigious farewell.

September 09, 1997|From Associated Press

CALCUTTA — Mother Teresa, whose message of peace and compassion went beyond the boundaries of creed and nationality, will go to her burial place on a gun carriage, draped in India's flag.

The military trappings of Saturday's state funeral might clash with the image of the Nobel Peace Prize winner, but church leaders said Monday that the rites are just the government's way of giving her its most prestigious farewell.

The Rev. Anthony Rodricks, an aide to Calcutta's Roman Catholic archbishop, Henry d'Souza, acknowledged that there had been objections to the gun carriage.

"People might think of war when they see a gun carriage, but this is not the way it should be taken. A state funeral is the highest honor the state government can give Mother, and that is the spirit in which the ceremony should be taken," he said.

Mother Teresa, who died Friday at 87, transformed a few shelters and schools for Calcutta's poor into a worldwide charity. Many of those whose lives she touched will join high-ranking church and state officials in the funeral procession.

"The procession will include those people [to whom] Mother has dedicated her life's work--the sick, handicapped, leprosy-afflicted," said Bill Canny, a spokesman for her order. The Congregation of the Missionaries of Charity order and the government are collaborating on the funeral.

"Mother certainly would be scolding us for all of our behavior in these preparations," Canny said. "But the sisters believed Mother had a sense of humor, and that she is probably also laughing at us a bit as we go through this out of . . . our need to show honor, respect and to show our love for Mother."

On Saturday, Mother Teresa's body--which is lying in state at Calcutta's St. Thomas Church--will be taken to a stadium for the funeral, and later, to her order's headquarters for private burial.

At the church Monday, mourners gave ushers roses to be brushed against the glass case enclosing her body, then took them as keepsakes. Other flowers left at her feet were made into a huge arrangement.

One fan was selling posters of Mother Teresa for about 30 cents outside the church.

"She cared for poor people like me and was never worried about letting us touch her or go near her," Upajan Das said.

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