Mother Teresa of Calcutta, a nun who dedicated her life to helping the poor, will be made a saint of the Roman Catholic Church at a ceremony on Sep 4, Pope Francis announced on Tuesday.
Last December, he cleared the way for sainthood for the Nobel peace laureate, who died in 1997 at the age of 87 and was known as “saint of the gutters”.
Teresa, who was born Agnese Gonxha Bojaxhiu of Albanian parents in 1910 in what was then part of the Ottoman Empire and is now Macedonia, became an international figure but was also accused of trying to convert people to Christianity.
Francis, who has made concern for the poor a major plank of his papacy, was keen to make Mother Teresa a saint during the Church’s current Holy Year.
The Vatican said the ceremony would take place at the Vatican, dashing hopes of Indians that the pope would go to Kolkata, as Calcutta is now called, to perform the ritual.
“I am waiting to get there because it has been absolutely jubilant news and I can’t thank God enough that it is happening in my lifetime,” said Sunita Kumar, spokesperson for the Missionaries of Charity, the order of nuns Mother Teresa founded.
She began the order in the 1950s to help the poor on the streets of Kolkata. The religious order spread throughout the world. She won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979.
The late Pope John Paul II bent Vatican rules to allow the procedure to establish her case for sainthood to be launched two years after her death instead of the usual five. She was beatified in 2003, a mere six years after her death.
In the time since her death, some have accused Mother Teresa and the order of having ulterior motives in helping the destitute, saying their aim was to convert them to Christianity.
The order rejects that, saying, for example, that most of those helped in the Kalighat Home for Dying Destitutes in Kolkata were non-Christians with just a few days left to live and noting that conversion is a lengthy process.
The Church defines saints as those believed to have been holy enough during their lives to now be in Heaven and can intercede with God to perform miracles. She has been credited in the church with two miracles, both involving the healing of sick people.