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Vatican urged to declare Mother Teresa saint
Published on 27 Jun. 2010 11:49 PM IST
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As the Catholic Church readies several functions to mark the birth centenary of Mother Teresa on Aug 26, followers of the nun and Catholic groups have urged the Vatican to confer formal sainthood on that day on Kolkata’s “saint of the gutters” who devoted her life to working for leprosy patients and the poor.
Mother Teresa was beatified by the Vatican in 2003 and given the title of “Blessed”, which allows people to set up chapels in her name.
Church sources said several people belonging to different religions as well as Catholic organisations have written to the Pope separately to bestow sainthood to Mother Teresa on her centenary. Copies of some of the letters are with the Catholic Bishops Conference of India (CBCI), the apex body of the Catholic Church in India.
“We realise the aspirations of the devotees, both Catholics and members of other religions. However, the sainthood scrutiny process will take its own course,” Rev. Babu Joseph, spokesperson of CBCI, told IANS.
The procedure for sainthood takes years, according to Joseph, who is also coordinator of the centenary celebrations. “The church follows a rigorous and long process before anyone is declared a saint. Mother Teresa is already honoured by the church as she has been bestowed the ‘Blessed’ title,” he said.
The last Indian to be elevated as saint was Sister Alphonsa. Alphonsa, who belonged to Kerala, was beatified in 1986 - 40 years after her death - by Pope John Paul II. She was declared a saint on Oct 12, 2008, after 22 years. Before her, Gonsalo Garcia was declared a saint in the 19th century. He was born in Vasai near Mumbai to an Indian mother and Portuguese father in 1556.
If Mother Teresa is conferred sainthood, she will be the third Indian to be sainted.
But, as V.V. Augustine, former member of the National Minorities Commission, says: “For me and others who know her work, she is already a saint.”
“I am praying and waiting for that moment when Mother is declared a saint. But people know the procedure is long,” Augustine told IANS. The Catholic Church began the process for bestowing sainthood on Mother Teresa soon after her death on Sep 5, 1997. The Missionaries of Charity, which she founded in 1950, falls under the jurisdiction of the CBCI.
The CBCI has chalked out a detailed programme for the centenary celebrations, Joseph said. President Pratibha Patil will preside over a commemorative meeting in New Delhi Aug 28. Several union ministers and Missionaries of Charity chief Sister Prema will address the meeting. A commemorative coin will be released by the government on the occasion.
A national-level symposium on the ‘Life and Message of Mother Teresa’ will be held in the capital on Aug 27. Navin Chawla, chief election commissioner and biographer of Mother Teresa, Girija Vyas, chairperson of the National Commission for Women, Archbishop Oswald Gomis, chancellor of Colombo University, and Dr. Valson Thampu, principal of St Stephen’s College, Delhi, will be among the speakers.
A week-long photo exhibition on the work of Mother Teresa will be held in New Delhi from Aug 23 to 30. Noted photographer Raghu Rai will be the curator of the exhibition.
In Kolkata, the headquarters of the MOC, a week-long film festival on Mother Teresa will be the highlight of the celebrations.
Various dioceses and parishes in the country have planned centenary celebration programmes which include prayer services, public meetings and social work, Joseph added.
Mother Teresa was born Aug 26, 1910, in Skopje in Macedonia, to Albanian parents. She was baptised as Gonxha Agnes. She came to India in 1929 to work as a nun of the Loretto Convent in Kolkata. Moved at the plight of the homeless and poor on Kolkata’s streets, she started the Missionaries of Charity.
The MOC has spread its work to several countries, providing shelter to leprosy patients, the homeless, destitutes and orphaned children.
Mother Teresa was honoured with several prestigious awards, including the Nobel prize for Peace in 1979 and the Bharat Ratna, India’s highest civilian honour, in 1980.

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