Mother Teresa Calls Abortion Greatest Threat to Peace

Times Staff Writer

Abortion has become the greatest threat to world peace, Nobel Peace Prize winner Mother Teresa said Tuesday after receiving an honorary degree from the University of San Diego, where she addressed a standing-room-only crowd of more than 6,000 admirers.

Speaking without notes and in a strong voice that belied her small size, the 78-year-old Albanian-born nun, who is best known for tending the needs of people in the slums of Calcutta, India, decried mothers who “destroy” their children.

Mother Teresa, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979 for her work with the poor worldwide, used the symbolism of the Catholic Feast of the Visitation, which was celebrated Tuesday, to speak out against abortion. According to Scripture, Mary, who was pregnant with Jesus, visited her cousin, Elizabeth, who was pregnant with John the Baptist. Think of what the world would have been like if both babies had been aborted, she said.

‘Destroys 2 Lives’

Earlier, she called abortion a threat to peace and referred to “a child . . . destroyed by its own mother.”

“Abortion has become the greatest destroyer of peace, because it destroys two lives, the life of the child and the conscience of the mother,” she said. " . . . Let us thank our parents for wanting us, for loving us, for giving us the joy of living. . . . You are priceless to God himself.”

In her address, Mother Teresa also recited an anecdote to illustrate that every person, whether rich or poor, is significant in the eyes of God.

She talked about a desperate father who arrived at her mission with his only son, who was sick and dying. The doctor had given the child a prescription, but the father could not afford to purchase the medicine. As she was talking to the father, another man walked in with a basket full of medications. At the top of the pile was the medicine needed by the child.

Even with “millions and millions and millions of children in the world,” God was still concerned with “that little child in the slums of Calcutta,” said Mother Teresa.

Rosary From Mayor

San Diego Bishop Leo T. Maher, who is also chairman of the USD Board of Trustees, presented Mother Teresa with an honorary degree for her work with the poor. The ceremony was held at the university’s football stadium.

Mayor Maureen O’Connor said she was tempted to give Mother Teresa the traditional key to the city, but decided against it.

“What does Mother Teresa want with the keys to San Diego when she already holds the keys to heaven,” said O’Connor. However, the mayor did give her a white rosary that belonged to O’Connor’s mother and that had been blessed by Pope John XXIII.

Mother Teresa ended her 20-minute speech by imploring the crowd to “give until it hurts” and encouraging them to help the poor, homeless and the sick. But she said that any help they give must be spiritual as well.

“Hunger today is not only for bread. Hunger today is to be loved,” she said.