Princess Diana & Mother Teresa

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How oddly fitting that Princess Diana and Mother Teresa, who had some connections in life, are connected to each other in death because they died six days apart in 1997. The coverage of Diana’s death made for a somewhat memorable Labor Day weekend that year, which then rolled right into the coverage of Mother Teresa.

Princess Diana meets Mother Teresa at Mother Teresa's home in the South Bronx.

On 31 August 1997, Diana, Princess of Wales died as a result of injuries sustained in a car crash in the Pont de l’Alma road tunnel in Paris, France. Dodi Fayed, and the driver of the Mercedes-Benz S280, Henri Paul, were pronounced dead at the scene; the bodyguard of Diana and Dodi, Trevor Rees-Jones, was the only survivor. Although the media blamed the paparazzi following the car, an 18-month French judicial investigation found that the crash was caused by Paul, who lost control of the car at high speed while drunk. Paul was the deputy head of security at the Hôtel Ritz and had earlier goaded the paparazzi waiting outside the hotel. His inebriation may have been exacerbated by anti-depressants and traces of a tranquilizing anti-psychotic in his body. The investigation concluded that the photographers were not near the Mercedes when it crashed.

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Since February 1998, Dodi’s father, Mohamed Al-Fayed (the owner of the Hôtel Ritz, where Henri Paul worked) has claimed that the crash was a result of a conspiracy, and later contended that the crash was orchestrated by MI6 on the instructions of the Royal Family. His claims were dismissed by a French judicial investigation and by Operation Paget, a Metropolitan Police Service inquiry that concluded in 2006. An inquest headed by Lord Justice Scott Baker into the deaths of Diana and Dodi began at the Royal Courts of Justice, London, on 2 October 2007, a continuation of the inquest that began in 2004. On 7 April 2008, the jury concluded that Diana and Dodi were the victims of an “unlawful killing” by the “grossly negligent” chauffeur Henri Paul and the drivers of the following vehicles. Additional factors were “the impairment of the judgment of the driver of the Mercedes through alcohol” and “the death of the deceased was caused or contributed to by the fact that the deceased was not wearing a seat belt, the fact that the Mercedes struck the pillar in the Alma Tunnel rather than colliding with something else”.

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Mother Teresa died six days after Diana’s death, on Sept. 5. She was 87 years old, and her death was neither sudden nor violent. At this ten-year mark we learn of the forthcoming book with letters in her own hand that speak to her loss of belief in God. Teresa had been an ordinary teaching nun of the Sisters of Loreto of Ireland for 15 years when she received a “call within the call” to leave her convent and work with the misery of the world’s poorest poor.

After several years of deteriorating health, in which she suffered from heart, lung and kidney problems, Mother Teresa died. In 2002, the Vatican recognized a miracle involving an Indian woman named Monica Besra, who said she was cured of an abdominal tumor through Mother Teresa’s intercession on the one year anniversary of her death in 1998. She was beatified as “Blessed Teresa of Calcutta” on October 19, 2003 in a ceremony led by Pope John Paul II.

Since her death, Mother Teresa has remained in the public spotlight. In particular, the publication of her private correspondence in 2003 caused a wholesale re-evaluation of her life by revealing the crisis of faith she suffered for most of the last 50 years of her life.

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