Arafat visits Mother Teresa


CALCUTTA, India -- PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat met Wednesday with Mother Teresa, winning a promise that the Nobel Peace Prize winner will visit Jerusalem and Bethlehem this year.

The Roman Catholic nun told Arafat in the headquarters of her Missionaries of Charity order in Calcutta that she will visit the Middle East but that she could not come at Christmas as the Moslem Palestinian leader requested.


Arafat, accompanied by federal Railways Minister George Fernandes, met with Mother Teresa on the final day of a three-day visit to India. He spent Monday and Tuesday in New Delhi and flew to Calcutta, the capital of West Bengal in eastern India, on Wednesday morning.

The leader of the Palestine Liberation Organization, who is recognized by India as the president of Palestine, was to depart for Tunisia late Wednesday.

During their 30-minute talk in her small office, Arafat presented Mother Teresa with a $50,000 donation for her order, which began in Calcutta with a home for the destitute and now operates more than 400 charitable facilities in 92 countries.

Arafat also gave the nun a model of the Star of Bethlehem made from mother of pearl and a box of the same material and asked her to visit Bethlehem and Jerusalem for Christmas.


'Archbishop Desmond Tutu visited Bethlehem and Jerusalem last Christmas,' Arafat said. 'Why don't you visit the places this Christmas?'

Mother Teresa replied: 'I cannot visit this Christmas. But I will go to Bethlehem and Jerusalem sometime this year.' She did not specify a date.

Arafat asked her to 'pray for my children,' a reference to Palestinian children living in the troubled Israeli-occupied territories of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

'I do not pray only for your children, but for all children all over the world,' she replied. 'Love and peace begin at home and we shall work together for peace and love.'

Mother Teresa then showed the guerrilla leader a list of Missionaries of Charity institutions around the world, including one in the West Bank and 10 in other locations in the Middle East.

Arafat later told reporters: 'The work of the Missionaries of Charity touches my heart. It reminds me of my children's suffering in Palestine.'

Mother Teresa was awarded the 1979 Nobel Peace Prize for her work among the poorest of the poor in Calcutta, India's largest city. Born of Albanian parents in what is now Yugoslavia, she came to India in 1929.


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