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Mother Teresa to be made saint today, Vatican braces for swarm of believers

india Updated: Sep 04, 2016 01:56 IST
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A portrait of Mother Teresa is carried in the crowd during a vigil of prayer in preparation for her canonisation in the St. John in Latheran Basilica at the Vatican. (AP)

More than a hundred thousand people are expected at Sunday’s canonisation ceremony for Mother Teresa at the Vatican City, marking the culmination of a process described as long, complex, opaque and often contentious.

The service to declare the Nobel Peace prize winner a saint will be led by Pope Francis in front of St Peter’s basilica. A 12-member delegation led by external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj and two other teams from Delhi and West Bengal led by chief ministers Arvind Kejriwal and Mamata Banerjee will attend the event.

A group of around 50 nuns and some 45 bishops from across India will also join the ceremony. The nuns will be led by Mary Prema, superior general sister of the Missionaries of Charity, the order founded by Mother Teresa.

The Catholic Church posthumously confers sainthood on people considered so holy during their lives that they are now believed to be with God and can intercede with Him to perform miracles.

Actors perform as nuns of the Missionary of Charity, the Religious family founded by Mother Teresa at St Peter's square at the Vatican. (AFP)

Mother Teresa died in 1997 and the late Pope John Paul, who met her often, bent Vatican rules to grant a dispensation allowing the procedure to establish her case for sainthood to be launched two years after her death instead of the usual five.

He had even considered making her a saint immediately but cardinals convinced him it would set a dangerous precedent, even though in the early Church people were acclaimed saints upon their death.

The canonisation procedure requires at least two miracles . In 2002, the Vatican officially recognised a miracle linked to Mother Teresa after her death - the healing in 1998 of a tribal woman, Monika Besra, who was suffering from an abdominal tumour. The second miracle was from Brazil, where a person was healed miraculously as a result of her earlier prayers.

Greg Burke, an official at the Vatican’s press office, said it would be impossible to predict how many people will attend Sunday’s canonization. All 100,000 tickets for the mass had been distributed but the crowd would likely be far greater, spilling into the streets around St Peter’s Square, he said.

More than a dozen heads of state or government will be among the dignitaries attending the event, which will be covered by some 600 journalists from around the world.

At the Mother House in Kolkata , a special mass will be organised and the nuns will celebrate the occasion with the poorest of the poor.

Marcilio Haddad Andrino, the Brazilian man who was declared miraculously healed through Mother Teresa’s intercession, told a news conference at the Vatican that he was suffering from a viral brain infection and doctors had lost all hope of saving his life when his wife Fernanda prayed to Mother Teresa.

Soon afterwards, he said he found himself miraculously healed from the illness. He said he was just one example of God’s mercy and that he “did not feel special”.

Within a year, Andrino’s wife became pregnant and they had two children even though he had been told the powerful drugs he had taken had made him infertile. He called his two children “the extension of that miracle”.

One city that will be particularly proud when Mother Teresa is made an official saint of the Roman Catholic Church is Skopje, the capital of Macedonia where she was born on August 26, 1910.

Her parents were Albanian and she was christened Gonxha Agnes Bojaxhiu. At the time, Skopje was part of the Ottoman empire.

On the streets of Skopje, stalls sold postcards and memorabilia with the nun’s picture while visitors took in sites dedicated to the Nobel prize winner such as a memorial museum and statues.

The canonization ceremony will be beamed on the Vatican’s YouTube channel, on the player of Vatican Radio and on the website of the Vatican Television Service (CTV).

Read | Mother Teresa’s mission survives beyond her life

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