NEW DELHI — India's Missionaries of Charity order said it would pray for British writer Christopher Hitchens' soul, despite his aggressive campaign against its Nobel prize-winning founder, Mother Teresa.
"We will pray for him and for his family," spokeswoman Sister Christie told AFP on Friday, upon hearing of Hitchens' death at the age of 62 after a battle against cancer of the oesophagus.
Asked whether Hitchens, an avowed atheist, would welcome such prayers, she declined to comment.
The iconoclastic Hitchens, who enjoyed great success as a columnist, was among the strongest critics of Roman Catholic saint-in-waiting Mother Teresa, calling her "a fanatic, a fundamentalist, and a fraud".
In his 1995 book "The Missionary Position" and a 1994 documentary called "Hell's Angel", Hitchens accused the nun of being a political opportunist who struck friendships with dictators and corrupt financiers in exchange for donations to her order.
He also accused her or contributing to the misery of the poor with her strident opposition to contraception and abortion.
The Albanian-born nun began her missionary work with the poor in Kolkata in eastern India in 1948, and was known as the "Saint of the Gutters" for her work with the city's sick and dying.
She received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979, and was beatified in 2003, six years after her death in September 1997.
Hitchens was called by the Vatican to argue against her beatification, later saying he was chosen to "represent the devil pro bono".
The firebrand writer, who began his journalistic career in Britain before moving to the United States, was diagnosed with cancer in June 2010, and had documented his declining health in his regular column for Vanity Fair magazine.
In announcing his death, Vanity Fair described the writer as an "incomparable critic, masterful rhetorician, fiery wit, and fearless bon vivant".
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