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Nun felt 'too small' for an attack by devil

Priest told her 'evil' assaults 'holy people'

CALCUTTA, India — Mother Teresa, who underwent an exorcism before she died, told a priest she was not important enough to be attacked by the devil, her successor as head of the Missionaries of Charity said Monday.

Just before Sister Teresa died in 1997 at 87, a priest told the founder of the Missionaries of Charity that very holy people were often attacked by the devil during their last days, Sister Nirmala said.

"I am too small for that," Mother Teresa was quoted as replying by Sister Nirmala who now heads the worldwide order that tends to the poor and dying.

Last week, the archbishop of Calcutta, Henry Sebastian D'Souza, said he ordered that an exorcism be performed on Mother Teresa a few months before she died because she was "restless" and unable to sleep while in hospital for heart problems.

He told Reuters he felt the devil might have been attacking Mother Teresa as "evil" tends to attack "holy people."

In July 1999, Pope John Paul waived the normal five-year period required between a person dying and the beatification process starting for Mother Teresa. Beatification is a major step toward canonization or sainthood.

In her statement, Sister Nirmala said she was unsure whether Mother Teresa was really being disturbed by the devil while in hospital or was feeling restless due to her physical and psychological condition as "she was so sick."

But "saintly people in their moments of sickness and weakness . . . are often assailed by temptations, even disturbances by evil spirits," she added.

"They are harassments and not possession by the devil. The devil cannot possess someone who is filled with God, and loves him and all his children," she added.