Mother Teresa, the Roman Catholic nun renowned for her charity, became an honorary American citizen Saturday.
“This is a gift of God. I am afraid I am not worthy of it,” Mother Teresa said after receiving the documents from U.S. Ambassador Frank G. Wisner.
The ceremony took place at the Calcutta headquarters of the Missionaries of Charity, the congregation of sisters she founded in 1949 that has 517 centers in 80 countries.
“In the United States, Missionaries of Charity touch the lives of thousands of Americans each day, laboring with compassion and concern in dozens of our cities, as they do in countries around the world,” Wisner said. “From today forward, you are no less a citizen of the world, but you are a daughter of America as well.”
Mother Teresa, 86, won the 1979 Nobel Peace Prize. She also has received America’s highest civilian decoration, the Medal of Freedom.
“The people of America are truly grateful for your tireless service and commitment to the greater good,” President Clinton said in a letter presented along with the citizenship papers.
Clinton signed the bill conferring citizenship on her Oct. 1, after Congress unanimously passed it in September. Rep. Michael Patrick Flanagan (R-Ill.) proposed the award, which is symbolic and does not confer any rights or privileges.
Honorary U.S. citizenship has been granted only three other times--to British wartime Prime Minister Winston Churchill; Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg, who is believed to have saved at least 20,000 Jews from the Nazis; and Pennsylvania founders William Penn and his wife, Hannah.