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In pics: Pope declares Mother Teresa a saint and model of mercy

india Updated: Sep 04, 2016 22:33 IST
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Mother Teresa, the nun whose work with the dying and destitute of Kolkata made her a global icon of Christian charity, was made a saint on Sunday.

Her elevation to Roman Catholicism’s celestial pantheon came in a canonisation mass in St Peter’s square in the Vatican that was presided over by Pope Francis in the presence of 100,000 pilgrims.

A tapestry depicting Mother Teresa is seen in the facade of Saint Peter's Basilica during a mass, celebrated by Pope Francis, for her canonisation in Saint Peter's Square at the Vatican. (Reuters)

The ceremony came a day before the 19th anniversary of Teresa’s death in Kolkata, the city where she spent nearly four decades tending to the poorest of the poor.

With the 16th century basilica of St Peter’s and an azure sky providing the backdrop, the faithful basked in the late summer sun as Francis presided over a ritual mass that has barely changed for centuries.

Pope Francis leads the canonisation of Mother Teresa. (AFP Photo)

Such was the demand from pilgrims, the Vatican could easily have issued double the number of tickets but for space and security restrictions.

Helicopters had earlier buzzed over the headquarters of the Roman Catholic church, testifying to the huge but relatively discreet security operation under way. Some 3,000 officers were on duty to ensure the day passed off peacefully.

Nuns belonging to the global Missionaries of Charity, bow in front of a relic of Mother Teresa during a mass, celebrated by Pope Francis, for her canonisation in Saint Peter's Square at the Vatican. (Reuters)

Among the assembled crowd were some 1,500 poor people looked after by the Italian branches of Teresa’s order, the Missionaries of Charity.

After the mass they were to be Francis’s guests at the Vatican for a giant pizza lunch served by 250 sisters and 50 male members of the order.

St. Peter's Square is crowded with faithful attending a Canonisation Mass by Pope Francis for Mother Teresa, at the Vatican, Sunday. (AP Photo)

Teresa spent all her adult life in India, first teaching, then tending to the dying poor.

It was in the latter role, at the head of her now worldwide order that Teresa became one of the most famous women on the planet.

Indian nuns from the Catholic Order of the Missionaries of Charity watch a live telecast of the canonisation of Mother Teresa. (Subhankar Chakraborty/HT Photo)

Born to Kosovan Albanian parents in Skopje -- then part of the Ottoman empire, now the capital of Macedonia -- she won the 1979 Nobel Peace Prize and was revered around the world as a beacon for the Christian values of self-sacrifice and charity.

External affairs minister Sushma Swaraj arrives with a delegation for the canonisation ceremony of Mother Teresa. (Twitter/MEAIndia)

But she was also regarded with scorn by secular critics who accused her of being more concerned with evangelism than with improving the lot of the poor.

Faithful and pilgrims wait to enter in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican before the canonisation ceremony. (AP Photo)

The debate over the nun’s legacy has continued after her death, with researchers uncovering financial irregularities in the running of her order and evidence mounting of patient neglect, insalubrious conditions and questionable conversions of the vulnerable in her missions.

Nuns of the Missionaries of Charity, the religious order founded by Mother Teresa, carry the mother's relics, as the Pope leads a holy mass for her canonisation, in Saint Peter square at the Vatican. (AFP Photo)

Sceptics were absent from the Vatican Sunday however as Francis prepared to pay homage to a woman he sees as the embodiment of his vision of a “poor church for the poor”.

A man holds an icona of Mother Teresa as he arrives for the holy mass and Canonisation of the nun. (AFP Photo)

By historical standards, Teresa has been fast-tracked to sainthood, thanks largely to one of the few people to have achieved canonisation faster, John Paul II.

A woman displays the commemorative postage stamp of Mother Teresa after its release function in Mumbai. (AFP Photo)

The Polish cleric was a personal friend of Teresa and as the pope at the time of her death, he was responsible for her being beatified in 2003.

A woman from Goa with a statue of Mother Teresa. (Samir Jana/HT Photo)

Achieving sainthood requires the Vatican to approve accounts of two miracles occurring as a result of prayers for Teresa’s intercession.

People pay tributes to Mother Teresa in Kolkata. (Samir Jana/HT Photo)

The first one, ratified in 2002, was of an Indian woman, Monica Besra, who says she recovered from ovarian cancer a year after Teresa’s death -- something local health officials have put down to medical advances rather than the power of prayer.

Sisters of Charity arrive to attend the holy mass and Canonisation of Mother Teresa. (AFP Photo)

In the second, approved last year, Brazilian Marcilio Haddad Andrino says his wife’s prayers to Teresa led to brain tumours disappearing. Eight years later, Andrino and his wife Fernanda were in the congregation on Sunday.

The relics of Mother Teresa are carried by nuns prior to the start of a Mass celebrated by Pope Francis. (AP Photo)

Also in the crowd at St Peter’s was Teresa Burley, an Italy-based American teacher of children with learning difficulties who says the new saint inspired her vocation.

A man holds an Indian flag before the start of a canonisation ceremony in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican. (AP Photo)

“I’m also named Teresa,” she told AFP. “I remember growing up admiring the things she did for children and the poor.

“We need to remember we are here to help each other. We need to be here for those who can’t help themselves. It’s the same for refugees arriving here: we have to be there to help them transition into their new lives.”

Nuns of Mother Teresa's Missionaries of Charity stand near a Swiss guard prior to the start of a mass celebrated by Pope Francis. (AP Photo)

Many Indians have made the trip to Rome, among them Kiran Kakumanu, 40, who was blessed by Teresa when he was a baby and grew up to become a priest.

A nun holds a photo of Mother Teresa before the start of the canonisation ceremony in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican. (AP Photo)

Abraham, an Indian expatriate in London, said Teresa’s life had set a unique example to the world.

“She practised Christianity. The majority of Christians only spend their time talking about it.”