FOR most of her life, Mother Teresa was known as the “living saint”. Tomorrow, to mark the 19th anniversary of her death, her sanctity will be officially sealed with a canonisation Mass led by Pope Francis.
Hundreds of thousands of devoted followers of the dimuninitive nun are expected to gather for the Mass at St Peter’s Square in the Vatican.
Born in Albania, her rise to worldwide fame was extraordinary. She went to Loreto Abbey in Rathfarnham, Dublin, for six weeks to learn English before going to India to be a missionary. She worked for almost 20 years as a teacher in Calcutta (now Kolkata), before setting up the Missionaries of Charity in 1950, an order that has since grown to more than 3,000 nuns worldwide.
She set up hospices, schools, leper colonies, and homes for abandoned children and became known as the Saint of the Gutters for her work in the city’s vast slums.
Mother Teresa will be among the most controversial of latter-day saints. While beloved of millions and befriended by world leaders and royalty, notably Pope John Paul II and Britain’s Princess Diana, she has also been fiercely criticised as not a friend of the poor but rather a tolerator of poverty.
Those critics who insist that faith has triumphed over reason with her elevation, should not forget she also received the Nobel Prize for peace — a form of secular canonisation.
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