PEKING -- Mother Teresa of Calcutta told the paralyzed son of Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping today that, despite his professed atheism, 'deep down in your heart you have that desire to love God.'
The 74-year-old nun, whose work with the poorest of the poor in India won her the Nobel Peace Prize, met with Deng's son, Deng Pufang, 41, and discussed a number of subjects -- including atheism.
Mother Teresa, on a three-day visit that ends Wednesday, is seeking permission to establish a branch of her Sisters of Charity in China to run homes for the destitute.
Deng, who lost the use of his legs when he was thrown out a window by radical Red Guards during the Cultural Revolution, has been a moving force in China's growing movement for the handicapped.
During their 45-minute meeting attended by reporters, Deng told the 1979 Nobel laureate that while her work is based on religion, his stems from a desire to do social service.
'Although we start from a different standpoint, we are doing it for the same purpose,' Deng said.
'It's the same standpoint. It's our love for God in action,' Mother Teresa quickly interjected. She said the poor and the handicapped 'are our brothers and sisters under God.'
'We can say that in your words,' Deng replied with a laugh, 'but I myself am an atheist.'
But the intrepid Albanian nun responded: 'The same loving hand has created you, me and each one of them ... for the same purpose -- to love and be loved.'
'And what you do is your love for God in action,' she added. 'Inside of you, you have that desire to love God. Deep down, it doesn't matter what you are saying -- atheist and all of that. Deep down in your heart you have that desire to love God. You put that desire into action and that's love.'
Mother Teresa told Deng she is seeking to establish her Roman Catholic missionary order in China. 'We hope and pray one day we will come to your country. That will make 68 countries when we'll work with you,' she said.
Asked later what he thought of her request to set up missions in China, Deng said it was the first he had heard of the plan and that she will need government approval.
Mother Teresa, asked about the Chinese response to her proposal, said: 'We don't know yet. That has to be decided by the top people, I guess.'