POPE FRANCIS has declared Mother Teresa of Calcutta to be a saint of the Roman Catholic Church, describing her as a “tireless worker of mercy”. About 120,000 people crowded into St Peter’s Square, Rome, for the canonisation of the foundress of the Missionaries of Charity last Sunday.
Afterwards, the Pope celebrated the Christian witness of the “saint of the slums” by buying pizzas for about 1500 poor people in the care of the Missionaries of Charity. In his homily, the Pope said that Mother Teresa was a “generous dispenser of divine mercy”, who served Christ in everyone, from the unborn to those “left to die on the side of the road”.
”I think, perhaps, we may have some difficult in calling her ‘St Teresa’,” he said in remarks that deviated from his prepared text. “Her holiness is so near to us, so tender, and so fruitful that we continue to spontaneously call her ‘Mother Teresa’.
”May this tireless worker of mercy help us increasingly to understand that our only criterion for action is gratuitous love, free from every ideology and all obligations, offered freely to everyone without distinction of language, culture, race, or religion.”
He went on: “Let us carry her smile in our hearts, and give it to those whom we meet along our journey, especially those who suffer. In this way, we will open up opportunities of joy and hope for our many brothers and sisters who are discouraged, and who stand in need of understanding and tenderness.”
Mother Teresa was born Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu to an Albanian family in Skopje, now part of Macedonia, in 1910. She went to India in 1947 as a member a teaching order, the Sisters of Loreto, but felt called by God to serve the poor.
In 1950, she founded the order Missionaries of Charity in the slums of Calcutta. It has now spread to more than 130 countries. She died, aged 87, on 5 September 1997, and, almost immediately afterwards, Pope John Paul II opened her cause for canonisation.
The inexplicable cure of Monica Besra, from West Bengal, of a tumour in her abdomen, allegedly at Mother Teresa’s intercession, became the miracle needed for Pope John Paul to declare the nun Blessed in 2002. Her canonisation became possible after the Vatican confirmed that it believed that the inexplicable healing of a Brazilian man from multiple brain tumours in 2008 was also the result of the prayers of Mother Teresa.
Pope Francis chose the Year of Mercy, which will be observed by the Roman Catholic Church until the end of November, as the perfect moment to declare Mother Teresa a saint. “God is pleased by every act of mercy, because, in the brother or sister that we assist, we recognise the face of God which no one can see,” he said in his homily.
”Each time we bend down to the needs of our brothers and sisters, we give Jesus something to eat and drink; we clothe, we help, and we visit the Son of God.”
The lunch provided by the Pope was served to poor and destitute people cared for by the Missionaries of Charity throughout Italy. They were taken to the Vatican after the canonisation to dine on Neapolitan-style pizzas in the Paul VI Audience Hall, served by about 300 Sisters.