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Vatican calling: Politicians make beeline for Mother of all junkets

india Updated: Aug 31, 2016 19:55 IST
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Mother Teresa, seen in her hospital around the time she was awarded the Templeton Prize for Progress. (Mark Edwards/Getty Images)

Mother Teresa will be anointed a saint on Sunday and India’s politicians are in a mad dash to travel to the Vatican to witness the historic event, most of them possibly at public expense.

At least a central minister, two chief ministers, a number of politicians and civil servants will travel to the Holy See to witness the canonisation of Mother Teresa .

The list of visitors include leaders from West Bengal, Delhi, invitees from Mother Teresa’s organisation, Missionaries of Charity, and possible leaders from states with big Christian populations such as Kerala or Goa.

Foreign minister Sushma Swaraj will lead the official Indian delegation, whose composition is unknown. But the decision has already angered Sangh Parivar, which views the Albania-born Mother Teresa as a missionary who came to India to convert Hindus.

But the biggest share of invites appears to have gone to Mother Teresa’s adopted home state, West Bengal.

Chief minister Mamata Banerjee, her party leaders Sudip Bandyopadhyay and Derek O’Brien, state chief secretary Basudeb Bandyopadhyay are among those going. Sister Mary Prema, superior general of the Missionaries of Charity will accompany Banerjee. Five top nuns are also going to the Vatican.

Senior sources in Roman Catholic Diocese of Kolkata told HT that the Bengal politicians are going as guests of the Missionaries of Charity, which refused comment.

Surprise visitors are Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal, his private secretary Bibhaw Kumar and public works minister Satyendra Jain. Sources said the city government will bear the expense of their trip but the costs are not known. Both Kejriwal and Jain are going to the Vatican on a personal invite from the Missionaries of Charity.

Delhi chief secretary KK Sharma and Jain’s secretary DC Goel were also supposed to go but the request was turned down by lieutenant governor Najeeb Jung, sources said.

Two special invitees of the Vatican are Mother Teresa’s cardiologist AK Bardhan and his wife Seba, who treat Monica Besra. Besra was reportedly cured by a miracle attributed to the venerated nun, paving the way for her elevation as a saint.

But that is not all. A number of politicians and religious leaders from Kerala, Goa, the northeastern states and Tamil Nadu – all with substantial Christian populations – are expected to join the delegation.

Invitees for Mother Teresa’s canonisation

Central delegation
  • Foreign minister Sushma Swaraj
  • Minister for Food Processing Industries Harsimrat Kaur Badal
  • Lok Sabha MPs Prof K V Thomas, Jose K Mani, Anto Anthony, Conrad K Sangma
  • Goa deputy chief minister Francis D’Souza
  • Supreme Court judge Kurian Joseph
  • Lawyer Harish Salve
  • Secretary General of Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India Theodore Mascarenhas
  • For IAS officer K J Alphons
  • Secretary (West), MEA, Sujata Mehta

Delhi

  • Chief minister Arvind Kejriwal
  • Kejriwal’s secretary Bibhaw Kumar
  • Delhi Public works minister Satyendra Jain

West Bengal

  • Chief minister Mamata Banerjee
  • Trinamool Congress leaders Sudip Bandyopadhyay and Derek O’Brien
  • Chief secretary Basudeb Bandyopadhyay

Kerala

  • Finance minister Thomas Issac
  • Water resources minister Mathew T Thomas
  • Congress Lok Sabha MPs K V Thomas, Jose K Mani and Anto Antony
  • BJP leader K J Alpons

Meghalaya

  • National People’s Party and Tura MP Conrad Sangma

Goa

  • Deputy chief minister Francis D’Souza
  • Goa Congress president Luizinho Faleiro
  • Former state governor Margaret Alva