Monday, October 20, 2003, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Pope beatifies Mother Teresa

A tapestry depicting Mother Teresa was unveiled at St Peter’s Square in The Vatican on Sunday. 
A tapestry depicting Mother Teresa was unveiled at St Peter’s Square in The Vatican on Sunday. 
— Reuters photo

Vatican City, October 19
An ailing Pope John Paul II beatified Mother Teresa before a crowd of 3,00,000 today, calling her an icon of charity and launching her on the fast track to sainthood.

The two-and-a-half-hour ceremony in St Peter’s square was a multi-coloured, multi-lingual service that reflected Mother Teresa’s global appeal.

There were Indian girls dancing with incense and flowers, hundreds of Mother Teresa’s nuns dressed in white and blue saris, cardinals in red silk, presidents in blue suits and Rome’s homeless wearing hand-outs from shelters.

But it was a test for the dwindling stamina of the 83-year-old Pope, who suffers from Parkinson’s disease. He can no longer walk and his speech is often slurred and gasping.

On the altar before Christians’ largest church, the Pope managed to read the formula of beatification with difficulty in Latin. But aides had to read out his sermon for him in English and Italian to help him conserve his strength.

It was the first time at a major papal ceremony that the Pope did not read any part of his homily. Unusually, aides also read parts of the Mass prayers for him.

Applause and cheering broke out in the vast crowd when a giant tapestry showing a smiling Mother Teresa was unveiled.

“I am personally grateful to this courageous woman, who I always felt was at my side,’’ the Pope said of Mother Teresa of Kolkata in his homily.

“She was an icon of the good Samaritan,’’ he added. ‘‘She had chosen to be not just the least but to be the servant of the least.’’

The Pope praised Mother Teresa, who died in 1997 aged 87, for ‘‘her faith-filled conviction that, in touching the broken bodies of the poor, she was touching the body of Christ’’.

Catholic and non-Catholic admirers packed the square and filled the broad Via della Conciliazione from the Vatican to the River Tiber. The police estimated the crowd at 3,00,000.

Mother Teresa never hid her Christian inspiration but won admiration from Hindus, Muslims and others around the world.

The ethnic Albanian nun tended the sick and dying of Calcutta’s slums for decades with the Missionaries of Charity order she founded.

“Mother Teresa was for us great because she was not just a daughter of our homeland, Albania. She gave up our flag and every other flag for one flag, the flag of love,’’ said Dod Brokshi, an Albanian man.

“Coming here means a new renaissance for us,’’ he said, waving the Albanian flag. Mother Teresa was born to ethnic Albanian parents in Skopje, in what is now Macedonia.

In the crowd were the presidents of Albania and Macedonia, Alfred Moisiu and Boris Trajkovski, former Polish President Lech Walesa, Bernadette Chirac, wife of the French President, French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin and many Italian leaders.

But perhaps the VIPs of the day were the spiritual army of Mother Teresa’s nuns, who took the homeless to lunch after mass without fanfare.

“It is not enough for us to say: I love God, but I do not love my neighbour... How can you love God whom you do not see, if you do not love your neighbour whom you see, whom you touch, with whom you live?’’ Mother Teresa said in her speech of acceptance of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979.

She launched her order in 1950 with only 12 nuns. There are now 4,500 in 133 countries running homes, schools and hospices.

The Pope 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 a saint of Mother Teresa immediately. Cardinals advised against it, saying it would set a difficult precedent for other future candidates for sainthood.

Before beatification the Church requires proof that a candidate has been responsible for a miracle. Proof of a second is needed before canonisation as a saint.

The first miracle formally attributed to Mother Teresa concerned an Indian woman, Monica Bersa, whose tumour shrank after she prayed to the nun in 1998. — Reuters


City of Joy exults

Nuns pray at the tomb of Mother Teresa in Kolkata on Sunday.
Nuns pray at the tomb of Mother Teresa in Kolkata on Sunday. — Reuters photo

Kolkata, October 19
The City of Joy, where Mother Teresa worked among the poor for over half a century, today commemorated her beatification in Rome through day-long programmes, including prayers and thanksgiving by the Missionaries of Charity, processions by street children and an evening audio-visual concert.

The celebrations being held on a low key began with an hour-long morning prayer from 6 am at Mother House, the global headquarters of the Missionaries of Charity (MoC), the order founded by the frail Albanian nun. The prayer was conducted by Fr Joseph Maliyakcl and was attended by around 200 persons.

In the afternoon, the Bangiya Christiya Parisheba, a united forum of Catholics and Protestants, brought out a procession from MoC to Shishu Bhavan near Mother House and back. More than 500 street and slum children under the care of various NGOs like SEDP, Rainbow Children, FOCUS, SHED, SOUL, Gramdan etc participated in the programme.

A few hundred schoolchildren are also participating in the rally to express their solidarity. The rally, carrying the cutout, festoons and placards started from Mother’s tomb after a word prayer by Sister Nirmala Maria.

The rally was followed by a short cultural programme on the footpath in front of Mother House.

Meanwhile, the speed with which beatification was rushed through has raised eyebrows among a section of the Roman Catholic clergy here who held that in his hurry to elevate her to sainthood, the Pope had not done justice to the Albanian-born nun’s spirit of humility and simplicity. — PTI

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