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Making of Saint Teresa of Calcutta: What it’s taken, how it will happen

On Sunday at the Vatican, Pope Francis will declare Mother Teresa a saint of the Roman Catholic Church.

Written by Liz Mathew |
September 2, 2016 1:00:32 am
mother teresa, mother teresa’s canonisation, mother teresa’s sainthood ceremony, sainthood ceremony, mother teresa’s canonisation, mother teresa’s sainthood ceremony, sainthood ceremony, indian express news, india news St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican on Thursday, where preparations are afoot for the canonization ceremony Sunday. (Source: AP)

What is going to happen to Mother Teresa at the Vatican on Sunday?

At 10.30 am on September 4 — 2 pm in India — at a special Mass in St Peter’s Square, Vatican City, Pope Francis will declare Mother Teresa a saint of the Roman Catholic Church. The Prefect of the Congregation for Causes of Saints, Cardinal Angelo Amato, and postulator of Mother Teresa’s case for sainthood, Father Brian Kolodiejchuk, M C, will ask the Pope that the name of the Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta be written in the Book of Saints. The Prefect will read a brief biography of Mother Teresa, and a prayer and the Litany of the Saints will follow. The Pope will then read the Formula of Canonization in Latin, ending with the trinitarian blessing “In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”, and everyone will say “Amen”. This will be the official recognition of Mother’s sainthood. Her relics will be brought to the altar, and the choir and assembly will sing “Alleluia”. The Prefect and Postulator will thank the Pope for the proclamation and request that arrangements be made to have the Apostolic Letter regarding the Canonization be written. The Pope will respond, “We so decree”, and the Prefect and Postulator will exchange an embrace of peace with him. The Eucharist and Pope’s homily will follow.

What will change with canonization?

Officially, Mother Teresa will be called Saint Teresa of Calcutta. Albanian born Anjezë Gonxhe Bojaxhiu became Sister Teresa after becoming a nun in 1928. On May 24, 1937, she took her Final Profession of Vows to a life of poverty, chastity and obedience and, as was the custom for Loreto nuns, took the title of “Mother”. In India and Kolkata, this is likely to stay — by reason as much of habit as of deep emotional bonding — and she will probably be still called Mother Teresa in the churches, by the nuns of her Missionaries of Charity, and by the faithful in general.

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How many saints are there in the Catholic Church? Who recognises them?

Over 10,000 are named as saints, but there is no official count. The veneration of saints started as early as 100 AD, with Christians honouring other Christian “martyrs”. Beginning the 10th century, the Roman Catholic Church declared that no one could be venerated as a saint without its approval. The first recorded canonization is of Ulrich of Augsburg by Pope John XV in 993 AD. Gradually, the identification of a saint came to be regulated by bishops and the Pope. Saints may be named only after a formal process of canonization that can last years — even though local people touched by them may be praying to them unofficially from much earlier. After canonization, the saint’s name is added to the Catalogue of Saints and can be invoked in public prayers, Holy Mass can be offered and churches dedicated in their names, and their images can have a halo.

What is the procedure for the elevation?

The process of canonization can begin 5-50 years after the death of the candidate. In 1999, Pope John Paul II waived the normal five-year waiting period, clearing Mother Teresa for immediate consideration for canonization because she was considered a “living saint”.

Once the process begins, the person is called a “Servant of God”. The first phase — Postulation — has to do with gathering testimony, public and private writings, and getting them examined, and has to be established by the Diocese. This phase takes long, sometimes many years, and ends with the judgment of a Diocesan tribunal, in which the Bishop takes a decision on the candidate’s exceptional virtue and dedication to God. If permission is granted, the Bishop’s report goes to Rome, where it is translated into Italian — this step is called the Apostolic Process. A summary is then presented to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, where 9 theologians scrutinize the evidence and documentation. If a majority passes it, it goes to the Pope; once recognised by the Pontiff, the candidate is called Venerable.

The next step is Beatification. For a person to be declared Blessed, there has to be approval of a “miracle”, which is evidence of the intercessory power of the Venerable Servant of God, an indication that he or she has united with God after death. The Diocese where the so-called miracle is claimed to have taken place carries out a scientific and theological investigation. The Scientific Commission must decide by accepted scientific criteria that there is no natural explanation for the alleged miracle, and the Theological Commission will judge whether what happened was indeed a “miracle”, and whether it was due to the intercession of the Venerable Servant of God. If the Commissions turn in positive findings, the findings go to the Pope — and if he approves, the candidate is beatified. In the case of martyrdom, the requirement of a miracle is waived. Once beatified, the candidate can be privately venerated.

To take the process forward towards canonization, however, a second miracle is needed. The same procedure is followed, and ends with the Pope’s decision, which is considered to be protected from error by the Holy Spirit. In 2002, the Pope acknowledged the healing of a tumour in the abdomen of a Bengali tribal woman, Monica Besra, as Mother Teresa’s first miracle; in 2015, a second miracle involving a Brazilian man with brain tumours was recognised. Doctors and rationalists rejected the so-called miracles, and several questions were raised, especially about the first case.

Who from India are going for the canonization ceremony? Who decides the invitee list?

The Catholic Bishops Conference of India (CBCI), the apex decisionmaking body of the Catholic Church in Kerala, had invited Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the ceremony. The Prime Minister is sending a 12-member official delegation led by External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, and including MPs and eminent personalities. The Missionaries of Charity has invited Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, who had worked with Mother Teresa for a few months, and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who will be accompanied by her party MPs Derek O’ Brien and Sudip Bandyopadhyay. The CBCI also invited Congress President Sonia Gandhi, who has nominated Margaret Alva.

What does the canonization cost? Who bears it?

The actual cost is not known. However, Pope Francis recently approved new regulations to make sainthood causes more financially transparent after Italian journalist Gianluigi Nuzzi claimed that “to simply open a cause for beatification costs 50,000 euros, supplemented by the 15,000 euros in actual operating costs”.

Sources claimed the cost of Mother Teresa’s canonization has been less than Rs 50 lakh. Father Joseph Chinnayyan, Deputy Secretary General and Director of the CBCI Centre, said the cost includes remuneration for officials going through the documents. “For every request, a minimum of 5 people work for 3-5 years… The cost also includes travel expenses etc. Sometimes it takes years, for Alphonsa, the saint from Kerala, it took 20 years.”

While the postulator or promoter of a sainthood cause can continue to administer the funds for each cause, the bishop of the diocese or superior general of the religious order that initiates the cause or another church authority must review financial statements and approve the budgets for each cause. When there are no sponsors, the Vatican takes up the process suo motu, like in the case of the Italian Maria Goretti, one of the youngest saints, who died at age 11.

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