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Sunday, November 28, 2021

Mother Teresa & sainthood: The road can be long and winding but not for her

In the case of Mother Teresa, the process began a year after her death. It was sped up and she was taken closer to sainthood in 2003 when she was declared as 'Blessed', just a step below sainthood.

Written by Shaju Philip |
Updated: June 20, 2021 7:20:11 pm
File photo of Mother Teresa (Express Archive) File photo of Mother Teresa (Express Archive)

Mother Teresa of Kolkata, who died in 1997, is on the fast track to sainthood after Pope Francis has recognized the second miracle attributed to her. She is slated to be elevated to the altar of sainthood next year.

In the modern history of the Catholic Church, no other candidate has gone through such a short period to sainthood. In the Church, it is mandatory that the long-winding process of canonization be launched only after five years of the candidate’s death. That is to ensure that the candidate has a lasting reputation among the faithful.

In the case of Mother Teresa, the process began a year after her death. It was sped up and she was taken closer to sainthood in 2003 when she was declared as `Blessed’, just a step below sainthood.

Conferring sainthood on a Catholic is a long process. First, the demand for initiating the process should come from within the local community, which should establish that the candidate lived a saintly life amidst them.

If the demand merits attention, the local diocese constitutes a special body to look into the life of the candidate. If they find that the prospective saint is worthy of the honour, the diocese presents the case at the Congregation for the Cause of Saints in Rome. If the Vatican is convinced, it confers the title of ‘Servant of God’ on the candidate.

Then the real process begins. A postulator — a church official who oversees the canonization process — must prove that the candidate lived by Christian virtues. Documents and testimonies are collected and presented to the Vatican Congregation.

In the next stage, the ‘Servant of God’, if found to be virtuous enough, is declared ‘Venerable.’ At this juncture, the postulator has to prove that a living person received a miracle from God through the intervention of the ‘Servant of God’.

Once this is done, the candidate is declared ‘Blessed’ by the Vatican. During the ‘Blessed’ period, proof of another miracle brought about by the intervention of the candidate must be established. If this is done, the ‘Blessed’ is declared a saint.

Sometimes, the entire process of declaring a candidate a saint would run into centuries.

The Catholic Church in India has seven saints with three of them Indian-born. The others had been European missionaries.

Apart from Mother Teresa, there are 36 other candidates from India undergoing the sainthood process at various stages. Some are local men and women, others are missionaries. In the category of `Blessed’, a stage just below sainthood, there are four candidates apart from Terasa.

If Mother Teresa is elevated to sainthood in such a short period after her death she must be considered most fortunate: Devasayayam Pillai, who died in 1752 in Kanyakumari is still waiting for the final elevation.

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