VATICAN CITY: Pope Francis on Tuesday formally approved Mother Teresa’s elevation to sainthood and set September 4 as the date for her canonization.
The move comes 19 years after the death of the missionary nun who dedicated most of her adult life to working with the poor of Kolkata, India.
Indian Catholics had hoped Francis would travel to India for the canonization ceremony but, barring a last-minute surprise, it is expected to take place in Rome with a thanksgiving ceremony scheduled for the following month in the Indian city.
Known across the world, Teresa was awarded the Nobel Prize for her work with the poor, sick, old and lonely in the teeming slums of Kolkata, previously known as Calcutta.
She is revered by many Catholics but has also been attacked as a “religious imperialist” who attempted to foist her beliefs on an impoverished community in which they had no indigenous roots.
From sister to sainthood
Born Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu to Albanian parents in 1910 in what is now Skopje in Macedonia, Teresa arrived in India in 1929, having first spent time with a missionary order in Ireland.
She went on to found the Missionaries of Charity order in 1950 and was granted Indian citizenship a year later.
In 1962, she received the Ramon Magsaysay Award for International Understanding from the Philippine government, which initiated it, in recognition of her charity work in India.
Last year, she was credited by Vatican experts with inspiring the 2008 recovery of a Brazilian man suffering from multiple brain tumors, thus meeting the Church’s standard requirement for sainthood of having been involved in two certifiable miracles.
She was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 2003 after a fast-track process involving the recognition of a claim she had posthumously inspired the 1998 healing of a Bengali tribal women.
Francis met Teresa before he became pope, in 1994, and later joked that she had seemed so formidable he “would have been scared if she had been my Mother Superior.”
In her Nobel acceptance speech, she described terminations of pregnancies as “direct murder by the mother herself.”
India granted her a state funeral after her death and her grave in the order’s headquarters has since become a pilgrimage site.