Pope Francis on Sunday declared revered nun Mother Teresa a saint in a canonisation mass at St Peter’s square in Vatican. Applause erupted in St Peter’s Square in Rome even before Francis finished pronouncing the rite of canonisation at the start of the Sunday morning mass.
The Pope said Mother Teresa put into practice his ideal of the church as a merciful “field hospital” for the spiritually and materially poor.
“For the honour of the Blessed Trinity… we declare and define Blessed Teresa of Calcutta (Kolkata) to be a Saint and we enroll her among the Saints, decreeing that she is to be venerated as such by the whole Church,” the pontiff said in Latin.
Hundreds of Missionaries of Charity sisters in their trademark blue-trimmed saris had front-row seats at the mass, alongside 1,500 homeless people and 13 heads of state or government, including Queen Sofia of Spain.
The elevation of one of the icons of 20th Century Christianity came a day before the 19th anniversary of her death in Kolkata, where Saint Teresa spent nearly four decades working with the dying and the destitute.
19 years after her death, the “saint of the gutters”, Mother Teresa of Calcutta will be made an official saint of the Roman Catholic Church on Sunday. She will now be called the saint of Calcutta.
Such was the demand from pilgrims, the Vatican could easily have issued double the number of tickets but for space and security restrictions.
Helicopters had earlier buzzed over the headquarters of the Roman Catholic church, testifying to the huge but relatively discreet security operation under way. Some 3,000 officers were on duty to ensure the day passed off peacefully.
Among the assembled crowd were some 1,500 poor people looked after by the Italian branches of Teresa’s order, the Missionaries of Charity.
External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal & West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee attended the ceremony representing India. Government of India, in association with IndiaPost released a commemorative postage stamp to celebrate the canonisation of Mother Teresa as a saint.
Ahead of the canonization, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said, “All her life she worked to serve poorer sections of Indian society. When such a person is conferred with sainthood, it is natural for Indians to feel proud.”
Francis greeted a group of these nuns as he was driven through the square in his popemobile, and one of the nuns put a blue-and-white garland around his neck.
“Tomorrow, we’ll have the joy of seeing Mother Teresa proclaimed a saint,” he said. “She deserves it!” said Pope.
In his speech to the volunteers, including some who helped rescue survivors of the Aug 24 earthquake in central Italy, he decried those who “turn the other way not to see the many forms of poverty that begs out for mercy.”
In India, Missionaries of Charities in Bengal held a daylong event to in the memory of Teresa.
Teresa spent all her adult life in India, first teaching, then tending to the dying poor. It was in the latter role, at the head of her now worldwide order that Teresa became one of the most famous women on the planet.
Born to Kosovan Albanian parents in Skopje – then part of the Ottoman empire, now the capital of Macedonia – she won the 1979 Nobel Peace Prize and was revered around the world as a beacon for the Christian values of self-sacrifice and charity.
Achieving sainthood requires the Vatican to approve accounts of two miracles occurring as a result of prayers for Teresa’s intercession.
The first one, ratified in 2002, was of an Indian woman, Monica Besra, who says she recovered from ovarian cancer a year after Teresa’s death – something local health officials have put down to medical advances rather than the power of prayer.
In the second, approved last year, Brazilian Marcilio Haddad Andrino says his wife’s prayers to Teresa led to brain tumours disappearing. Eight years later, Andrino and his wife Fernanda were in the congregation on Sunday.
Many Indians have made the trip to Rome, among them Kiran Kakumanu, 40, who was blessed by Teresa when he was a baby and grew up to become a priest.
Abraham, an Indian expatriate in London, said Teresa’s life had set a unique example to the world. “She practised Christianity. The majority of Christians only spend their time talking about it.