Pope Francis has signed off on the miracle needed to make Mother Teresa a saint, giving the Albanian nun who cared for the poor in India one of the Catholic Church’s highest honours just two decades after her death.
The Vatican said on Friday that Francis approved a decree attributing a miracle to Mother Teresa’s intercession during an audience with the head of the Vatican’s saint-making office on Thursday, his 79th birthday.
No date was set for the canonisation, but Italian media have speculated that the ceremony will take place in the first week of September – to coincide with the anniversary of her death and during Francis’ Holy Year of Mercy.
“This is fantastic news. We are very happy,” said Sunita Kumar, a spokeswoman for the Missionaries of Charity in the eastern city of Kolkata, formerly Calcutta, where Mother Teresa lived and worked.
The miracle responsible for Mother Teresa’s canonisation concerned the inexplicable cure of a Brazilian man suffering from a viral brain infection that resulted in multiple abscesses.
By December 9, 2008, he was in a coma and dying, suffering from an accumulation of fluid around the brain.
The Reverend Brian Kolodiejchuk, the person spearheading Mother Teresa’s canonisation case, said in a statement on Friday that about 30 minutes after the man was due to undergo surgery that never took place, he sat up, awake and without pain, and was a day later declared to be symptom-free.
The Vatican later attributed the cure to the prayers of Mother Teresa’s intercession by the man’s wife, who at the time of his scheduled surgery was at her parish church, praying alongside her pastor.
Mother Teresa, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, died on September 5, 1997, aged 87.
At the time, her Missionaries of Charity order had nearly 4,000 nuns and ran roughly 600 orphanages, soup kitchens, homeless shelters and clinics around the world.
Work in India
Al Jazeera’s Nidhi Dutt, reporting from New Delhi, said it was a “much-anticipated news” in India, a country of an estimated 20 million Catholics.
Mother Teresa was born Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu on August 26, 1910, in Skopje, Macedonia.
She joined the Loreto order of nuns in 1928, and in 1946, while travelling by train from Kolkata to Darjeeling, was inspired to found the Missionaries of Charity order. She became an Indian citizen in 1951.
Mother Teresa won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979 for her work with Kolkata’s destitute and ill – work which continued even after she herself became sick.
While Mother Teresa is known and admired by many around the world, she was not beloved by all.
She was criticised for taking donations from Haiti’s ruler Jean-Claude Duvalier and disgraced American financier Charles Keating.
Detractors opposed her stance against birth-control use in Kolkata’s slums, which was nevertheless in keeping with church teaching opposing artificial birth control.