As Vatican City is about to witness the canonisation of Mother Teresa, India in particular, is thrilled to call her Saint Teresa, since this is the country she called home. The process of canonisation is a long and complicated procedure that begins in the diocese where the person lived or died. In the case of Mother Teresa, it is the city of Kolkata.
A proposer is required to spearhead the process, presenting the testimony of the requirements of sainthood to the Vatican’s Congregation for the Causes of Saints. In order to be declared a saint, the congregation needs to agree to the candidate having lived a virtuous life and having performed at least two miracles through the intercession of God after her death. In the case of Mother Teresa, the proposer was 46-year-old Canadian priest Father Brian Kolodiejchuk.
Since 1999 Father Kolodiejchuk went about interviewing 113 witnesses to prove the virtuosity of Mother Teresa. His efforts resulted in evidence amounting to 35,000 pages which were then presented to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints in August 2001. Once the details of her life had been qualified as worthy of Sainthood, the requirements of the two miracles had to be met.
Monica Besra’s fight against stomach tumour
In 1997, Monica Besra a tribal woman in West Bengal was under acute pain due to a tumour that had been diagnosed in her abdomen. After having visited a number of hospitals and doctors, she had not been cured. In May 1998 she was admitted to the home run by the Missionaries of Charity order in the town of Patiram.
The tumour had caused her stomach to swell up by now. Doctors considered her condition to be fragile and surgery was put off for another three months.
On September 5, 1998, as the Missionaries of Charity order was witnessing the first death anniversary of Mother Teresa with prayers in the chapel, Monica Besra felt a beam of light emanating from the photograph of Mother Teresa. In the evening, two sisters of the order tied a medallion with Mother Teresa’s picture around Besra’s waist and prayed over her. That night she slept peacefully after months of painful sleeplessness. When she woke up in the morning, her tumour was gone.
Monica Besra’s case has been countered by several doctors who believe that she was cured due to medication. Even her husband claimed that it was medicines that led to her recovery and not a miracle. However, medical practitioners have also not been able to explain the healing of the tumour within a matter of eight hours.
The medical committee of the Congregation for the Causes for the Saints, made up of five doctors, claimed that the case of Monica Besra was most convincing. In an interview to the Telegraph, one of the medical practitioners in the committee, Professor Raffaele Cortesini said that Besra’s case fulfilled all criteria to be called a miracle which includes suddenness, completeness and long term stability.
The overnight recovery of Monica Besra was confirmed to be the first miracle performed by Mother Teresa. This case helped expedite the beatification of Mother Teresa, making it one of the fastest in the history of the Catholic Church. Beatification of a candidate is the first step that eventually leads to his or canonisation on the performance of a second miracle. As per canon law, a minimum of five years is supposed to pass between a candidate’s death and the beginning of beatification. However, in case of Mother Teresa the process began just two years post her death.
The recovery of Marcilio Haddad Andrino
In December 2008, a Brazilian man, Marcilio Haddad Andrino recovered from multiple abscesses in his brain. When he was diagnosed with the abscesses, he and his wife placed a relic of Mother Teresa near his head and prayed to her regularly.
When in December 2008 he was rushed to the hospital on account of a severe headache he had, Andrino claimed to have experienced a miracle which led to his eventual cure. He reported to have felt a sense of peace and the headache suddenly disappeared. When the doctors examined him the following day his abscesses were seen as receding and he was declared to be cured.
The recovery of Andrino was recognised by Pope Francis as the second miracle attributed to Mother Teresa which finally made way for her canonisation on Sunday.
The canonisation of Mother Teresa comes on the eve of her 19th death anniversary. A 12-member delegation led by External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj are in Vatican City to attend the ceremony.