Mother Teresa , the Nobel Peace Prize winner who devoted her life to helping the sick and the poor, has died at the age of 87.

She died of a heart attack at the headquarters of the Missionaries of Charity in Calcutta shortly before 1700 BST.

The nun from Skopje, Macedonia, had been battling ill health for some years, and in March stepped down as head of the order of nuns she founded.

She was revered by many around the world as a living saint for her work with the dispossessed.

The Pope often praised her work and a Vatican spokesman told reporters he was "deeply hurt" by the news of her death.

"The Pope believes she is a woman who has left her mark on the history of this century," he said.

The head of the Catholic church in England and Wales, Cardinal Hume, said she was an "enormously significant figure - everyone knows who Mother Teresa is".

Conservative stance

Born Agnes Bojaxhiu in Skopje, then part of the Ottoman Empire later Macedonia, she took the name Sister Teresa in Ireland, where she began her training as a nun with the Loreto Sisters.

She founded her order in 1948 and went out to work in the slums of Calcutta.

She was sometimes accused by Hindus in her adopted country of trying to convert the poor to Catholicism by "stealth" and criticised by liberals who disliked her conservative stance on abortion and contraception.

But her biographer and friend Navin Chana said she would be remembered as someone who "gave the word compassion a new dimension".

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