OSLO, Norway -- Mother Teresa of Calcutta, a 69-year-old Roman Catholic nun, won the 1979 Nobel Peace Prize today for her devoted work among the poor and sick of India for the past 33 years.
The Nobel Committee of the Norwegian Parliament said it gave the Yugoslav-born nun the coveted honor "because she gave up her job as a teacher to devote herself to the work among the poorest population in India."
The prize, most famous of the seven Nobel awards is worth $193,000.
Mother Teresa Boyaxhiu won out over a field of 56 candidates that included President Carter, who had been under consideration for his work in helping frame the Middle East Peace accords.
Also under consideration had been the U.N. High Commission on Refugees for its work in helping the displaced "boat people" of Southeast Asia.
A spokesman for the High Commissioner's office promptly extended its congratulation to Mother Teresa, saying "The prize has gone to a person whose work deserves deep admiration and recognition."
In Calcutta, Mother Teresa took the news with characteristic calm. She immediately called together a group of missionaries and charity workers and announced simply: "I have got the Nobel prize." She then led a brief special prayer that was interrupted by the arrival of reporters.
On Sept. 10, 1946, a day she calls her "inspiration day," Mother Teresa decided God was calling her to work among the poor and dying.
She founded the Missionary Sisters of Charity in 1950 to work for the destitute and the dying.
Members of the order wear the traditional Indian white sari with a blue trim as their habit.
Mother Teresa was born in 1910 in Skopje, Yugoslavia, and joined the Irish Loreto Sisters in 1928 and did her novitiate in Calcutta where she took her first vows. She took her final vows there two years later.
"This year the world has turned its attention to the plight of children and refugees and these are precisely the categories for whom Mother Teresa has for many years worked so selflessly," the Nobel citation said.
"A feature of her work has been respect for the individual human being and for his or her dignity and innate value," it continued. "The loneliest, the most wretched and the dying have at her hands received compassion without condescension based on reverence for man."
It took a papal dispensation for Mother Teresa to leave the Loreto Sisters and join the Medical Mission Sisters, where she had her first medical training.
Sister Teresa's order confines its activity to the slums of India taking in the terminally ill, the critically sick and the orphaned who cannot get attention elsewhere.
Her care center in Calcutta is called The Home for The Dying, however it welcomes not only the destitute, but also abandoned children.
In 1963 she founded a congregation of missionary brothers that does similar work in India.
In India, Mother Teresa is regarded not only as a Catholic Nun who went into the slums to work, but is viewed by some as the almost a god -- an incarnation of Kali, the presiding Hindu deity of the Bengalis.
Mother Teresa has also won the first Pope John XXIII Peace Prize conferred on her by the late Pope Paul VI in 1971.
The Nobel Peace prize was established by Swedish chemist Alfred Nobel in 1895 for "the best work for fraternity between nations." He often called war "the horror of horrors and the greatest of all crimes."