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Mother Teresa visits Massachusetts prisons

CONCORD, Mass. -- Mother Teresa of Calcutta, the Nobel Peace Prize-winning nun, traveled Saturday to a prison to bring her message of love and peace to inmates in a trip initiated partly by a pen pal prisoner who used to be a monk.

Mother Teresa, known for her work among the destitute of India, spoke to prisoners and blessed 500 rosaries at the Concord House of Correction in the morning and planned to visit prisons in Framingham and Walpole later in the day.

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'In a place like this it is very important to share the joy of loving -- use the smile of compassion to make your stay more pleasant to each other. You must make use of every sacrifice and give it as a gift to God,' she said.

All of Concord's 800 inmates were invited and officials said most attended the mass in the maximum security prison's gymnasium that was celebrated by Cardinal Bernard Law, archbishop of Boston.

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The diminutive 77-year-old Roman Catholic nun sat down among the inmates during the service, and steppedonto the makeshift alter on the gym's stage only to bless the rosaries, which were distributed among the inmates.

After the mass, however, the Albanian-born Mother Teresa spoke to prisoners, urging them to spend their time while confined coming closer to God.

'Remember that God loves you tenderly. You can make this place another Nazareth because Jesus is here too. If there is any bitterness, get rid of it. Get it out. I will pray for you. I will not forget you. I love you. God Bless you,' Mother Teresa said to a standing ovation and tumultuous applause.

Prisoners after the meeting were full of praise for her.

'Today I felt an entity of love going throughout this institution, something which is very much needed here. Prison is a hostile environment, but I think life will go calmly for a few days because of her being her,' one prisoner said.

When Mother Teresa was asked by reporters how she felt about visiting the prison, she said 'They are our brothers. They need tender love and care in spite of what they have done.'

'I want to help these people make use of their prison sentence to come closer to God. God gave them this time to think and to pray and return back to Him,' she said.

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Her visit stemmed partly from a two-year correspondence with Walpole inmate Donald Ouimet, 47, a former Capuchine Franciscan Monk from Middletown, Conn., who was convicted five times for assault and battery from 1965 to 1985 after he left the monastery.

Ouimet said he began writing to Mother Teresa shortly after she was awarded the Nobel Peace prize. He began working intensively for her visit after she told him in an October 1987 letter 'if it is God's will, I will be able to come to you.'

Mother Teresa flew off in a helicopter from Concord shortly before noon for similar meetings at Framingham and Walpole, where Ouimet is imprisoned.

Mother Teresa arrived in Boston Friday at 6 p.m. and was greeted by local dignitaries, religious leaders and well-wishers. She spent the night at a missionary in the city's Mission Hill section, where nuns from her order, The Missionaries of Charity, hope to set up a new home for the poor.

Mother Teresa last visited Boston in 1987.

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