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'Saint Teresa of Calcutta': Pope Francis canonises Mother Teresa in Vatican ceremony

Mother Teresa will be declared a saint by Pope Francis of the Roman Catholic Church in a canonisation ceremony in Vatican City today in the presence of over a lakh of her followers from all over the world.

India TV News Desk, Vatican City [ Updated: September 04, 2016 14:31 IST ]
A nun holds a photo of Mother Teresa before the start of
Image Source : AP A nun holds a photo of Mother Teresa before the start of canonization ceremony

Just 19 years after her death, Mother Teresa was declared a saint by Pope Francis of the Roman Catholic Church in a canonisation ceremony in Vatican City today in the presence of over a lakh of her followers from all over the world. 

From India, a 12-member central delegation led by External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and two state government-level delegations from Delhi and West Bengal led by Chief Ministers Arvind Kejriwal and Mamata Banerjee, respectively, was in attendance during the function. 

President Pranab Mukherjee also conveyed his message yesterday and called Mother Teresa a "messiah" of the poor and a pillar of support for the weak as he said every Indian will take pride on her canonisation. In his message on the eve of the canonisation ceremony to be done by Pope Fracis at Vatican City, Mukherjee said Mother Teresa was an embodiment of compassion. 

Nuns at the Missionaries of Charity, founded by the late Nobel laureate nun, said the canonisation in Rome has a special universal significance because of the Mother's popularity. 

A group of around 40-50 nuns from different parts of the country were present at the ceremony led by Missionaries of Charity Superior General Sister Mary Prema. 

Besides Archbishop of Kolkata Thomas D'Souza, about 45 bishops from all over India are now in Vatican. 

With at least 13 heads of state or government in attendance along with over a lakh people at St. Peter's Square today, security is an obvious concern given that the Islamic State group has said Rome is their ultimate target as the seat of Christianity. 

For months now, police have closed to traffic the main boulevard leading to the Vatican. In anticipation of the throngs expected tomorrow, Rome police have added an extra 1,000 officers, many of them anti-terrorism teams, to a law enforcement force that has already been beefed up by 2,000 for the Jubilee year. 

The security plan calls for the area around St. Peter's to be divided into three areas with reinforced controls starting Saturday night and lasting through tomorrow. The airspace over the Vatican and surrounding areas will be closed.

In March, Pope Francis had announced that the Mother, who spent 45 years serving the poor and sick on the streets in Kolkata, will be elevated to sainthood after the Church recognised two miracles attributed to her after her death. 

In one of his first public audiences after being elected pope in 2013, Francis had said that he longed for a "church that is poor and for the poor." 

"Right from the beginning we said, 'Oh wow, this is a really an 'MC' pope!" said the Rev. Brian Kolodiejchuk, the MC (Missionaries of Charity) priest in charge of the cause. "He would have been one of our best members - if he hadn't joined the Jesuits." 

That Francis is crowning his Jubilee Year of Mercy with Teresa's canonization is evidence that he sees her as the model of the merciful church he envisions. 

"There will be other canonisations, but this (is) perhaps the key canonisation in what is the key year, the Year of Mercy," said the Vatican spokesman, Greg Burke. 

In Kolkata, to mark the occasion a series of events are being held in the city where the Mother lived and worked all her life. 

At the Mother House here tomorrow, a special mass will be organised and the nuns have promised to celebrate the occasion with the poorest of the poor. 

In Mumbai, the Department of Posts will release a commemorative stamp to mark her canonisation.

In 2003, Teresa was beatified by then Pope John Paul II in a fast-tracked process which is the first step to gaining Sainthood. 

The Catholic Church nevertheless has a grueling process to make it official, involving volumes of historical research, the hunt for miracles and teams of experts to weigh the evidence. 

In 2002, the Vatican officially recognised a miracle she was said to have carried out after her death, namely the 1998 healing of a Bengali tribal woman, Monika Besra, who was suffering from an abdominal tumour. 

The traditional canonisation procedure requires at least two miracles. 

The second miracle was from Brazil, where a person had been healed miraculously as a result of her earlier prayers. 

"Mother is known throughout the whole world for her works of mercy, recognized by Christians and non-Christians alike," said Sister Mary Prema Pierick, the current superior general of Mother Teresa's Missionaries of Charity order. "Reflecting about Mother and the life of our mother, we see all the works of mercy - corporal and spiritual - put into action." 

Her biographer, the Rev. Lush Gjergji, said she founded her life on two pillars: "For God and for the human being." 

"She crossed all barriers like castes, races, gender, ethnic, religious, cultural and turned into and remained the mother of the whole civilisation," he said. "In the history of sainthood and that of Christianity, she is the first saint of Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims, non-religious and of course for Christians." 

She was not beloved by all, however. She was criticized for the quality of care in her clinics and accused of taking donations from Haitian dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier and disgraced American financier Charles Keating. 

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