A two-hour holy mass attended by around 1,000 nuns, priests and commoners at the Missionaries of Charity global headquarters in Kolkata formally began Mother Teresa's birth centenary celebrations on Thursday.
The Mass, which started at 6.30 am at Mother House, was led by Cardinal Telesphore Placidus Toppo, the Archbishop of Ranchi, and concelebrated by around 60 other priests, including the Archbishop of Kolkata Lucas Sarkar and Bishop of Baruipur Salvadore Lobo.
Nuns of the Missionaries of Charity, a Catholic Christian Order founded by Mother Teresa, took part in the prayers, draped in their traditional white saris.
Missionaries of Charity superior-general Sister Prema, and her predecessor, Sister Nirmala, also attended the mass, held at the first-floor chapel.
"People from all sections of the society, including some of the inmates of the 19 homes run by the Missionaries of Charity in the city, took part in the mass," said a sister, after Pope Benedict XVI's message was read out describing Mother Teresa as an "exemplary model of Christian virtue".
Candles were lit at Mother Teresa's grave, a simple, rectangular three-feet-high cement tomb on the ground floor of the two-storeyed building decorated with flowers.
Pigeons and balloons were also released in the air on the occasion.
Film festivals, cultural programmes, a special train and exhibitions are lined up to mark the centenary celebrations in the city -- the epicentre of the nun's work among the poor, old, infirm and the dying.
An exhibition train -- a tribute from the Indian Railways -- showcasing the nun's life and philanthropic deeds will be opened for public viewing by Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee at the Sealdah Station here Thursday evening.
Christened "Mother Express", the train will travel to different stations of the country over the next six months. It comprises three air-conditioned coaches in which photographs and write-ups on Mother Teresa will be exhibited to project her life, work and message.
Born Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu to Albanian parents in Skopje, which is now in Macedonia, Aug 26, 1910, Mother Teresa left her parental home at 18, and joined the Sisters of Loreto, an Irish community of nuns with missions in India.
She arrived in Kolkata in 1929. Years later, she took Indian citizenship and left the convent with the church's nod to serve the poor and the ailing.
She set up Missionaries of Charity in 1950 at 14, Creek Lane, but shifted to the Mother House in 1953 as her order expanded.
Mother Teresa was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979 and given India's highest civilian honour, Bharat Ratna, in 1980 for her humanitarian work. The Missionaries of Charity now comprises over 4,500 sisters and is active in 133 countries.
It runs homes for people with HIV/AIDS, leprosy and tuberculosis. It also conducts children's and family counselling programmes and runs orphanages and schools.