Mother Teresa will be made a saint on September 4, Pope Francis announced on Tuesday — 19 years after the death of the Nobel Laureate who spent 45 years serving the poor and sick on the streets of Kolkata.
“Pope Francis today approved Mother Teresa’s elevation to sainthood and set September 4 as the date for her canonisation,” said a message from the Vatican to the Mother House — the headquarters of the Missionaries of Charity in Kolkata. Teresa founded the Missionaries of Charity and spent 45 years serving the poor, the sick, the orphaned, and the dying on the streets of Kolkata. She died at the age of 87 here in 1997.
The announcement was received at the Mother House with immense joy. “We have received an official confirmation from Vatican that Pope Franscis has approved Mother’s sainthood and set September 4 as the date for her canonisation. We are very excited and happy,” Missionaries of Charity Spokesperson Sunita Kumar said.
A sister associated with Missionaries of Charity said, “We arranged a special afternoon prayer to celebrate the occasion. We were expecting this announcement ever since the second miracle was recognised by the pope in December.” In keeping with the tradition of the organisation, the afternoon prayer meeting was a sombre and quiet affair. “The only joy we get it is through prayers. That’s our celebration,” she said.
According to the norms, the Catholic Church requires one “medical” miracle before a deceased Catholic can be declared “blessed,” and another such miracle, occurring after that declaration, before he or she can be canonized as a saint.
Teresa, who will now be a Saint of the Roman Catholic Church, was beatified by then pope John Paul II in a fast-tracked process in 2003 — the first step towards sainthood\. In 2002, the Vatican officially recognised the first miracle she was said to have carried out after her death, namely the 1998 healing of a tribal woman Monika Besra in South Dinajpore district of West Bengal, who was suffering from an abdominal tumour. Besra had said that after the application of a locket with Mother Teresa’s picture, she saw a beam of light emanating from it which, she claimed, cured her tumour. However, the doctors at Balurghat hospital where she was treated, had dismissed claims of a miracle and said their medicine had cured the woman’s tumour.
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On December 20, 2015, Pope Francis recognised a second miracle attributed to the Mother in Brazil, where, according to a write-up handed out by the Missionaries of Charity, a man with an incurable bacterial brain infection was cured on December 9, 2008 after his wife prayed to Mother Teresa in a parish church. He was supposed to undergo an emergency operation, but the moment the neurosurgeon entered the operating room, he found the patienct inexplicably awake and without pain. Both these episodes cleared the way for the Roman Catholic nun to be declared a saint this year.
Meanwhile, at Missionaries of Charity, several well-wishers and volunteers poured in to celebrate the Pope’s announcement. Nuns said the canonisation in Rome will have a special universal significance because of the Mother’s popularity. Sister Prema and Archbishop Thomas D’Souza will go to Rome to attend the canonisation.
Archbishop D’Souza said that the canonisation is a formality but an important one. “This is the last step that the Pope needs the cardinal and sign the decree,” D’Souza said. He added that they were planning a big celebration in Kolkata in September to mark the occasion where delegates from different parts of the country will participate.The MOC and other Christian associations in Kolkata are also planning a big thanksgiving Holy Mass on October 2 at the Netaji Indoor Stadium here, apart from a civil programme where dignitaries will be present.Over the years, the city has developed a love-hate relationship with the Missionaries of Charity, even though the order and Mother Teresa have garnered worldwide acclaim and appreciation. Last week, a blog by a former volunteer at the Missionaries of Charity (Kolkata), S Bedford, criticised the organisation for the way it lets the downtrodden suffer pain in order to gain salvation. In February last year, RSS head Mohan Bhagwat sparked outrage when he said Mother Teresa’s motive was to convert people to Christianity. In 2015, the Missionaries of Charity said it was forced to close its adoption centres because India’s new adoption laws, allowing single, divorced and separated couples to adopt, went against its religious views.
with PTI inputs