Mother Teresa canonized as a Saint by Pope Francis

September 4, 2016 by  
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Vatican, September 4, 2016: Pope Francis proclaimed Mother Teresa a saint on Sunday, bestowing the Catholic Church’s highest honor on one of the most widely admired public figures in recent history.

In a unifying gesture, the pope highlighted aspects of the new saint’s legacy appealing to opposite sides of a fractious divide: between Catholics who champion traditional moral teachings and those focused on economic justice. Pope Francis presented Mother Teresa’s opposition to abortion and her dedication to the poor as facets of a single mission.

The canonization ceremony took place under a broiling sun before a crowd of 120,000 in St. Peter’s Square, according to Vatican estimates. Behind the pope, on the facade of St. Peter’s Basilica, hung a banner-sized portrait of Mother Teresa, one of the late 20th century’s most recognizable faces.

Born to an ethnic Albanian family in what is now Macedonia, the diminutive Mother Teresa founded the Missionaries of Charity in 1950 with 12 followers in Kolkata, India. The order now runs hospices, homeless shelters and other services for the destitute in 139 countries.

In his homily, Pope Francis recalled the new saint as “committed to defending life, ceaselessly proclaiming that ‘the unborn are the weakest, the smallest, the most vulnerable.”

But he also said that Mother Teresa confronted the “powers of this world” with “their guilt for the crime of poverty they created.”

Mother Teresa was widely hailed as a saint even during her lifetime and won many worldly accolades, including the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979. Only 18 months after her death in 1997, St. John Paul II cut short the usual five-year waiting period to start the canonization process. He beatified her, bestowing the church’s highest honor short of sainthood, in 2003.

Her proclamation as a saint occurred one day before the 19th anniversary of her death. That anniversary, Sept. 5, will now be her feast day in the calendar of the Catholic Church around the world.

In an off-the-cuff addition to his homily, Pope Francis said the late missionary was already such a familiar figure that it would be hard to start calling her St. Teresa: “we will continue to call her Mother Teresa.”

For the church, saints are exemplars of “heroic virtue” whose divine salvation is an article of faith, and Catholics are encouraged to pray to them to intercede on their behalf with God.

After the pope proclaimed Mother Teresa a saint, two nuns of her order presented one of her relics: some of her blood in a cross-shaped reliquary.

The congregation included 20 official foreign delegations, including those led by Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj and Queen Sofía of Spain.

There were also 1,500 residents of homeless shelters run by the Missionaries of Charity in various Italian cities. After Mass, nuns served them pizza for lunch in the Vatican audience hall.

Ronnie Felderhoff, 61, of Muenster, Texas, said witnessing the canonization was “very spiritual, very fulfilling. It helps you with your faith to see the life she lived out. It’s just phenomenal how she gave herself to God. It humbles me.”

In Kolkata, at the Missionaries of Charity’s Mother House, or global headquarters, nuns, pilgrims and politicians wedged together on simple wood benches watched the ceremony on a borrowed television screen. People wept and clasped their hands in prayer as the pope proclaimed Mother Teresa a saint.

Tarun Barua, 52, a neighborhood property dealer, said Mother Teresa used to play with him when he was a child, and sometimes even scolded him when he was naughty, during her rounds visiting the poor in the area. “I am blessed that I grew up in her arms,” he said.

Ancy Rodrigues had traveled 2½ days by train from Goa to be there. “One of my prayers at night was always for her to become a saint,” said Ms. Rodrigues. “Now it’s happening, I am so happy.”

Joining the pilgrims praying and laying floral wreathes were local politicians, including the urban development minister of West Bengal State, Firhad Hakim. “It’s a matter of pride for us that Mother Teresa used to walk on these streets,” Mr. Hakim said.

“Every citizen of India will take pride in the recognition being accorded to Mother Teresa for her service to humanity and God,” India’s President Pranab Mukherjee said in a statement.

Raju King, 45, a chef who also grew up near the Mother House and now works in Dubai, said his mother used to receive handouts of milk, cooking oil and wheat from the nuns at the charity, which she sold to nearby tea stalls and corner shops for money to support her family.

“As soon as Mother was declared a saint my entire childhood flashed before my eyes,” Mr. King said, his voice shaking and eyes weeping. “Whatever I have achieved today is because of Mother Teresa.”

– wall street journal

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