Amidst all the politics over conferring her with this Herculean honour and debating over the definitions of a “miracle”, Pope Francis prepares declared Mother Teresa a Saint of the Roman Catholic Church yesterday at the St. Peter’s square, Vatican City in the presence of thousands of followers and enthusiasts while the entire world watched the canonisation.
Mother Teresa, the nun who worked tirelessly among the poorest of the poor in the slums of India was known as “The Saint of the Gutters”, and won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979.
It was the highlight of the Vatican’s Year of Mercy, a special calendar of events decreed by Pope Francis, who described indifference to suffering as a "Modern Sin" as he welcomed more than 100,000 supporters and followers from across the globe on Saturday.
The Vatican has described Mother Teresa's life as “a metaphor for selfless devotion and holiness”.
It often takes decades for people to reach sainthood after their death, but her beatification (in simple words: procedure for declaring someone as a saint) was rushed through by Pope John Paul II. She was fast-tracked for sainthood just a year after her death, with the then Holy See waived the usual five-year waiting period to initiate the beatification process.
Widely revered by Catholics for her work with the destitute in the city of Kolkata, she set up her own religious order Missionaries of Charity in 1950, and her legcay continues to live despite all the criticism. Questions were always raised over lack of hygiene and miserable conditions at the care homes and facilities run by her sisterhood. Anti-faith people also raised doubts about the miracles attributed to her by the Vatican, but over time the world found enough proof and faith. Two miraculous cures of the sick after Mother Teresa's death in 1997 attributed to her intercession.
Also the criticisms were shrugged off by the Church, as they insisted that Mother Teresa represented the highest standards of Christian self-sacrifice and devotion.
St. Teresa was born as Agnese Gonxha Bojaxhiu to Albanian parents in 1910 and grew up in what is now the Macedonian capital, Skopje, then part of the Ottoman Empire.
At 19, she joined the Irish order of Loreto and in 1929 was sent to India, to teach at St. Mary’s School in Darjeeling under the name of Therese.
In 1946, she moved to Kolkata to help the poor on the streets.
She founded the Missionaries of Charity in 1950. The sisterhood now has 4,500 nuns worldwide.
A decade later she set up a hospital and a home for abandoned children in the city and relentlessly worked for lepers and the downtrodden, practically lifted people off the roads and gave them a respectable life.
She died in 1997 at the age of 87 and is buried in Kolkata where her worshippers can visit her tomb and pray.
Nuns belonging to the Missionaries of Charity order are still active in Kolkata and many other parts of India.
During the ceremony Pope Francis said St Teresa had defended the unborn, sick and abandoned, and had shamed world leaders for the "crimes of poverty they themselves created".
He added: "She made her voice heard before the powers of the world, so that they might recognise their guilt for the crimes of poverty they themselves created." He then repeated: "The crimes of poverty they themselves created."
The Pope said Mother Teresa had spent her life "bowing down before those who were spent, left to die on the side of the road, seeing in them their God-given dignity".
1,500 homeless people across Italy were brought to Rome in buses, given seats of honour at the celebration and then a pizza lunch was served by 250 nuns from the Sisters of Charity.
The Nobel Peace Prize-Winner is a humanitarian icon said Prime Minister Narendra Modi quoating that "it is natural for every Indian to take pride" in her sainthood
So much so that Modi’s government sent an 11-headed delegation, led by foreign minister Sushma Swaraj, to the Vatican. They were set to be joined by the chief minister of the Indian capital New Delhi, Arvind Kejriwal, who volunteered with the Missionaries of Charity as a young man. West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee, was also a part of the delegation but not as government but as representative of Mother Teresa’s land of Kolkata.
Ahead of Mother Teresa’s canonization, Banerjee kicked off preparations in Kolkata with the unveiling of a life-size statue of Mother in the city on August 26, her 106th birth anniversary. “I am excited to be a part of the event in Rome. I don’t need a first row seat. I will not go there as a part of state delegation but will be a member of Missionaries of Charity,” Banerjee said. “I will sit with them and witness the moment when Mother will be announced as Saint.”
A special Mass was celebrated at the Missionaries of Charity, the order she founded in Kolkata with full gaiety and honour as the world witnessed a day seen once in a millennium.
Title image: freelargeimages