HK honour for Mother Teresa

MOTHER Teresa is to visit Hongkong next month to receive an honorary degree from the University of Hongkong.

But while the diminutive nun will stay in the Missionaries of Charity home for street sleepers at Shamshuipo, three others also being honoured with degrees will be checking into the Mandarin Oriental hotel.

The Governor, Mr Chris Patten, will confer the degrees on March 4.

The director of the university's external relations department, Mr Rupert Chan, said Mother Teresa would receive an honorary degree in social sciences as recognition for her services to the needy.

He said two men, one from Singapore and the other from China, and a woman from the Philippines - who have not been named - would also receive degrees, one in law and two in literature.

Mr Chan said the honorary graduates had been invited to stay in Hongkong for five days at the university's expense, and were due to arrive in the territory on March 2.

''They are flying business class but I expect Mother Teresa will ask that the cost of her accommodation at the Mandarin Oriental be donated to charity - probably the home at Shamshuipo,'' he said.

The sisters at the home, which Mother Teresa saw opened in 1985 after requesting the Shamshuipo site during a 1983 visit, said the nun would probably share a dormitory with the 12 sisters who run the home.

''When Mother Teresa last visited Hongkong in 1989 she spent three days with us, and lived and ate with us,'' said Sister Maria.

She said Mother Teresa never asked for special food or special treatment and usually travelled alone.

''But since her illness, she may be accompanied,'' said Sister Maria.

''She will probably just have bread, butter and jam with a cup of tea with us in the morning.

''Then at lunch we have rice, meat and vegetables with rice and vegetables in the evening.'' Sister Maria said if Mother Teresa had time she would visit their community in Macau.

University of Hongkong Vice-Chancellor Professor Wang Gungwu is to host a special dinner at his home the night before the private degree conferring ceremony at the City Hall, which Mr Chan expected would be filled to capacity.

''Following the ceremony, university Pro-Chancellor Sir Albert Rodrigues will host a banquet at the Mandarin hotel,'' he said.

He said any other activities would depend on the physical condition and preferences of the graduates.

Mother Teresa, 82, suffered her second heart attack early last year as well as a life-threatening bout of pneumonia but has since recovered and returned to a demanding routine of charity work.