Priest 'felt Mother Teresa was a saint 40 years before her canonisation'

Priest 'felt Mother Teresa was a saint 40 years before her canonisation'
Monsignor Barry Wymes

A retired Catholic priest said he recognised the saintliness of Mother Teresa when he met her more than 40 years ago as he joined 120,000 people in St Peter's Square at the Vatican for her canonisation.

Applause erupted around the square on Sunday morning from thousands of the faithful who had made the pilgrimage to see Pope Francis officially make the nun who cared for the world's destitute a saint.

People from all over the world travelled to see the rite at the start of the Mass, including groups from Kolkata in India, where Mother Teresa found her calling among the poor of the slums, from her birth land of Albania and the many countries where her order of nuns, the Missionaries of Charity, have set up homes.

Among them was Monsignor Barry Wymes, from Cobham in Surrey, who defied doctors and ill-health to attend the ceremony.

Mgr Wymes, who is in his 80s, was advised not to go as he has been undergoing radiotherapy but decided to get a last-minute flight.

He told the Press Association he met Mother Teresa in 1974 when he persuaded her to speak to the young people of the Arundel and Brighton Diocese in Guildford Cathedral at an event recorded by the BBC.

Mgr Wymes said: "I recognised she was a saint back then, and it's good that she's now got official recognition."

Among others at the service was a group of 15 from the Anglican Langley parish in Middleton, Manchester, who made a pilgrimage to Assisi in central Italy before visiting Rome.

The Rev Philip Miller, 57, said: "We're so excited to be here, we really admire Mother Teresa. We met one of her friends and that got us interested. While in Rome we have visited Mother Teresa's house in Piazza San Gregorio, and seen where she actually slept."

Kerry Edward, 36, also from the Manchester group, said: "It's great to be here for a historic moment."

During the canonisation service, hundreds Missionaries of Charity sisters in their trademark blue-trimmed saris had front-row seats, sitting alongside 1,500 homeless people and 13 heads of state or government.

Throughout the night before thousands prayed at vigils in local churches, flocking to the Vatican before dawn.

Elevating the "saint of the gutters" to one of the Catholic Church's highest honours, Pope Francis praised Mother Teresa for her radical dedication to society's outcasts and her courage in shaming world leaders for the "crimes of poverty they themselves created".

For Francis, Mother Teresa put into action his ideal of the church as a merciful "field hospital" for the poorest of the poor, those suffering both material and spiritual poverty.

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