Philippine Daily Inquirer / 05:22 AM December 19, 2015
VATICAN CITY—Pope Francis has recognized a second miracle attributed to the late Mother Teresa, clearing the path for the nun to be elevated to sainthood next year, the Vatican said on Friday.
It said Francis had approved a decree attributing a miracle to Mother Teresa’s intercession during an audience with the head of the Vatican’s saint-making office on Thursday, his 79th birthday.
No date was set for the canonization, but Italian media have speculated the ceremony will take place in the first week of September—to coincide with the anniversary of her death, and during Francis’ Holy Year of Mercy.
Mother Teresa, a Nobel Peace Prize winner who dedicated her life to helping the poorest of the poor, died on Sept. 5, 1997, aged 87.
At the time, her Calcutta, India-based Missionaries of Charity order had nearly 4,000 nuns and ran roughly 600 orphanages, soup kitchens, homeless shelters and clinics around the world.
Mother Teresa’s fan
Francis, whose papacy has been dedicated to ministering to the poor just as Mother Teresa did, is a known fan.
During his September 2014 visit to Albania, Francis confided to his interpreter that he was not only impressed by her fortitude, but in some ways feared it.
Francis recounted that he had met Mother Teresa when they attended a 1994 bishop synod at the Vatican together. At the time, he was Archbishop Jorge Mario Bergoglio.
“Bergoglio had Mother Teresa behind him, nearby, and he heard her intervene often with great strength, without letting herself in any way be intimidated by this assembly of bishops,” the Vatican spokesperson, Federico Lombardi, recounted.
“And from that he developed a great esteem for her, as a strong woman, a woman able to give courageous testimony.”
But Bergoglio, who has long shown admiration for the women who raised him and taught him, added: “I would have been afraid to have had her as my superior, since she was so tough.”
Mother Teresa, born in Macedonia as Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu in 1910, was beatified in 2003 in Rome after the Vatican said an Indian woman’s prayers to the nun rid her of an incurable tumor.
The miracle needed for her canonization concerned the inexplicable cure in 2008 of a man in Brazil with multiple brain abscesses who, within a day of being in a coma, was cured, according to a report in Avvenire, the newspaper of the Italian bishops’ conference.
The Vatican ascertained that his wife’s prayers for Mother Teresa’s intercession were responsible, the report said.
Work for the poor
Mother Teresa, celebrated for her work with the poor in the Indian city of Kolkata, is expected to be canonized as part of the Pope’s Jubilee year of mercy.
“The Holy Father has authorized the Congregation for the Causes of Saints to proclaim the decrees concerning the miracle attributed to the intercession of blessed Mother Teresa,” the Vatican said in a statement.
In the Vatican’s Jubilee calendar, Sept. 4 is marked as a day dedicated to the late nun’s memory and her canonization is likely to take place then, experts say.
Archbishop of Kolkata Thomas D’Souza said the Vatican had recognized that Mother Teresa cured a Brazilian man suffering from multiple brain tumors in 2008.
‘Saint of the gutters’
“I was informed by Rome that Pope Francis has recognized a second miracle to Mother Teresa,” D’Souza told Agence France-Presse (AFP).
Mother Teresa, born to Albanian parents in what is now Skopje in Macedonia, was known for her charity work.
Nicknamed the “saint of the gutters,” she dedicated her life to the poor, the sick and the dying in the slums of Kolkata, one of India’s biggest cities, founding the Missionaries of Charity order of nuns there. She won a Nobel Peace Prize in 1979.
She was beatified by then Pope John Paul II in a fast-tracked process in 2003, in a ceremony attended by some 300,000 pilgrims. Beatification is a first step toward sainthood.
Her missionary order in Kolkata—formerly known as Calcutta—said it was “thrilled” and grateful to the Pope.
Sunita Kumar, a missionary spokesperson, said the late nun was an extraordinary woman who believed hard work was the best way to serve God.
“She of course read the Bible but her main understanding was to serve the poor,” Kumar told the NDTV network. “Look at the work she did, not a day’s holiday, not a day’s rest.”
Mother Teresa’s canonization in Rome is expected to again draw large crowds for what will likely be one of the highlights of the special Jubilee year.
In 2002, the Vatican officially recognized a miracle she was said to have carried out after her death, namely the 1998 healing of a Bengali tribal woman, Monika Besra, who was suffering from an abdominal tumor.
The commission found Besra, diagnosed with tuberculosis and a cancerous tumor, got well after prayers by the Missionaries of Charity.
Opposed to abortion
The traditional canonization procedure requires at least two miracles.
For all the reverence with which her name and memory are treated, Mother Teresa was not without her critics.
She has been accused of trying to foist Catholicism on the vulnerable, with Australian feminist and academic Germaine Greer calling her a “religious imperialist.”
One of her most vocal detractors was the British-born author Christopher Hitchens.
In a 1994 documentary called “Hell’s Angel,” he accused her of being a political opportunist who failed those in her care and contributed to the misery of the poor with her strident opposition to contraception and abortion.
Crises of faith
Questions have also been raised over the Missionaries of Charity’s finances, as well as conditions in the order’s hospices, where there has been resistance to introducing modern hygiene methods.
A series of her letters published in 2007 also caused some consternation among admirers as it became clear that she had suffered crises of faith for most of her life.
She was granted Indian citizenship in 1951 and received a state funeral after her death.
Her grave in the order’s headquarters has since become a pilgrimage site. Reports from AFP and AP