Mother Teresa, the revered nun whose work with the dying and the destitute made her an icon of 20th Century Christianity, will be declared a saint on Friday. The Indian delegation, led by Union External Affairs minister Sushma Swaraj, left for the Vatican City to attend the canonisation of Mother Teresa. She will declared saint in a grand ceremony at St. Peter’s basilica by Pope Francis.
“Leaving for Rome to attend the canonisation ceremony of Mother Teresa,” Ms Swaraj wrote on the Twitter sharing the picture of the India delegation.
West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee too will be attending the ceremony. She is not part of central government’s official delegation but is going as a guest of Kolkata-based Missionaries of Charity which was founded by Mother Teresa.
The elevation of the Nobel Peace Prize winner to Catholicism’s celestial pantheon comes on the eve of the 19th anniversary of her death in the Kolkata slums with which she is synonomous. After having initially come to eastern India as a missionary teacher with Ireland’s Loreto order, she worked with the poorest of the poor in Kolkata for nearly four decades.
The Missionaries of Charity, the order that Teresa created in 1950, now operates in 133 countries and comprises almost 5,000 male and female members.
Born to Kosovar Albanian parents in what is now Macedonia in 1910, Teresa died in 1997. By then she was a household name around the world and also a citizen of India, the adopted homeland that embraced the diminutive and doggedly determined sister to the extent that she was granted a state funeral.
During her life, Mother Teresa was widely revered as a self-sacrificing force for good, despite ferocious criticism from prominent intellectuals including the British writer Christopher Hitchens and the Australian feminist academic Germaine Greer.
Post her demise, Mother Teresa’s legacy became more widely questioned with claims of alleged irregularities in the financing of her charity order’s activities.
Mother Teresa was, however, well aware of such criticism during the latter stages of her life, answering them by saying that her faith in Christ made her know that holding the hand of a dying person was a worthwhile activity.
(With inputs from the PTI)