Already considered a saint by much of the world for her work with the poor, Mother Teresa was officially canonized and bestowed the title of saint this past Sunday.
“I think, perhaps, we may have some difficulty in calling her Saint Teresa. Her holiness is so near to us, so tender and so fruitful, that we continue to spontaneously call her Mother Teresa,” said the pope during the ceremony.
A host of diverse flags fluttered in the wind over the large congregation: Albania, to represent Teresa’s ethnic background, Macedonia, for her birthplace, Skopje from India, where she did a majority of her work with the poor in the slums of Kolkata.
Pope Francis closed the ceremony in Latin, announcing Teresa’s transformation from Mother to Saint. The crowd erupted. People had gathered from all over the world, from each of the many countries Mother Teresa had touched with her work.
This timely canonization comes during the Jubilee year, which Pope Francis has announced will carry the theme of ‘mercy’. During the ceremony he called Mother Teresa a “tireless worker of mercy.”
Pope Francis continued to praise Teresa’s “defense of human life, those unborn and those abandoned and discarded,” highlighting her view on abortion, a controversial topic in many pre-dominantly catholic countries.
Mother Teresa was known for utilizing her fame in ways other religious leaders would not. “She made her voice heard before the powers of this world, so that they might recognize their guilt for the crime of poverty they created,” the pope said during the ceremony.
“She was one with us,” said Sister Mary Prema Pierick, the superior general of the Missionaries of Charity, the order founded by Mother Teresa in 1950. “She never wanted or accepted anything not common with all the sisters.”
Although the Missionaries of Charity begun with only 12 nuns, the order now has over 5,800 member across 139 countries. They continue their mission in servicing the “poorest of the poor.”
The canonization comes 19 years after her death, a historically quick turn-around. Pope John Paul II began her canonization only two years after her death, breaking protocol from the customary five.
The first miracle in the beatification process was the “miracle cure” of an Indian woman who had prayed to Mother Teresa. Although the woman’s husband and Doctors both claim the Cancer was beaten normally though drugs and treatment.
While a celebrated figure, Mother Teresa was not without her critics. By the end of her life she had been accused of grossly misusing funds meant for charity, disregarding her mandate to serve the poor in order to visit world leaders on private jets, and overly focus on evangelism.
She was known for her staunch stance against abortion. “Today, abortion is the worst evil and the greatest enemy of peace… because if a mother can kill her own child, what will prevent us from killing ourselves, or one another? Nothing.” Said Mother Teresa during her acceptance speech for the Nobel Peace Prize.
Researchers from the University of Montreal and the University of Ottawa concluded in a 2013 report that Teresa did not deserve her reputation due to her “rather dubious way of caring for the sick, her questionable political contacts, her suspicious management of the enormous sums of money she received, and her overly dogmatic views regarding, in particular, abortion, contraception, and divorce.”
The study found the majority of those coming to Teresa’s home for the poor hoped to find proper treatment. Instead they found unhygienic conditions, a distinct lack of care and food, and no painkillers, in light of the massive donations Mother Teresa continued to receive.
Late journalist Christopher Hitchens is remembered as one of Mother Teresa’s staunchest critic, particularly on her canonization. “Surely and respectable Catholic cringes with shame at the obviousness of the fakery,” Hitchens once wrote. “A Bengali woman named Monica Besra claims that a beam of light emerged from a picture of Mother Teresa, which she happened to have in her home, and relieved her of a cancerous tumour. Her physician, Dr Ranjan Mustafi, says that she didn’t have a cancerous tumour in the first place and that the tubercular cyst she did have was cured by a course of prescription medicine.
Luiz Brasil, External News Editor