Mother Teresa will be canonized tomorrow at the Canonization Mass held by the Vatican. The Mass is scheduled to begin at 10:30 AM local time (2 PM Indian time). Over 100,000 people are expected to participate. According to Mother Teresa’s official website, different programmes towards the Sainthood of Mother Teresa will be organized for a week that began on September 1. The whole world, especially Mother Teresa’s followers and India is looking forward to witness this moment because India has been Mother’s land of Karma. Prime minister had mentioned it is in his monthly radio address Mann Ki Baat and an Indian delegation led by foreign minister Sushma Swaraj, that included Mamata Banarjee and Arvind Kejriwal, will represent India during the ceremony.

But if there are many who see a saint in Mother Teresa, there is a section that has made it the primary task to tarnish Mother Teresa’s image. They have written books. They keep on giving interviews and addresses that present Mother Teresa as some dogmatic religious fanatic whose main concern was religious mission and Catholicism spread and her humanitarian work just a façade for it. They raise fingers on absence on the financial accountability of her organization, Missionaries of Charity. They question poor and unhygienic practices being adopted in the houses for the dying started by her and now run by her order.

Yesterday, while looking for some information on Mother Teresa, I came across a strange development. The links that the Google search returned with had the Wikipedia page on Mother Teresa at top and, as happens, its summary was given in the corner. As we can see in this screenshot taken yesterday (September 2, 2016), that Mother Teresa was from Spain and she born and died there in the 16th Century. The screenshot says, quoting Wikipedia, that Mother Teresa was born on March 28, 2016 in Spain’s Gotarrendura and she died on October 4, 2016 in Alba de Tormes, again in Spain. But the initial three lines of the article is about Mother Teresa from Calcutta only who was born in Skopje, Macedonia, then part of the Ottoman Empire.

Mother Teresa was born on August 26, 1910 in Skopje and died on September 5, 1997 in Calcutta, India.

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Mother Teresa Wiki Sep3

Mother Teresa Wiki



The article originally appeared on DailyO.

In the last 50 years, from the days of Pope Paul VI that began in 1963, the Vatican has given the world some 640 saints, more than dozen a year.

Pope John Paul II, who was pope for more than 26 years, from 1978 to 2005, in fact made more saints that all previous popes together, over 480, since the papal supremacy in declaring sainthood for someone was officially established in the 16th Century. Pope Benedict who was pope for some eight years and who renounced papacy, leaving the office in 2013, had presided over 45 canonizations while the current pope, Francis, has already added 28 names to the canon of the recognized saints.

One of the canonizations by him is of the Martyrs of Otranto, 813 inhabitants of the Italian city Otranto who were massacred in 1480 after they refused to convert to Islam. If we count by the individual names, then Pope Francis has surpassed even Pope John Paul II. While Mother Teresa’s canonization mass is scheduled for September 4, 7 more will be elevated to the status of sainthood on October 16.

Almost of them have been catholic priests or adherents of Catholicism like Mother Teresa was, a staunch Catholic with orthodox values especially on women rights, abortion, contraception, divorce with her rigid views on how to treat the poor in her homes for the dying. Much of Mother Teresa’s criticism is directed by these values along with the questions raised on the financial accountability of her order.

But what sets Mother Teresa apart from the other saints or those who have been conferred with the sainthood, that the whole canon of modern saints doesn’t give you a name as big a humanitarian soul as Mother Teresa was. In fact, we can say Mother Teresa has been the most popular catholic throughout the world since she took the centre-stage with the global spread of her humanitarian organization, the Missionaries of Charity. For her service to the poor and destitute, she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979, a recognition that no pope has received so far. So, at least we can say the Vatican is going to honour humanity this time by canonizing someone who not only worked for the church, but also for the people of all faiths from across the world.

The religious nature of canonization has seen many controversies.

Pope Francis had canonized Junioperra Serra, an 18th Century missionary from Spain who migrated to America, in 2015. Serra has left behind him a fractured legacy of conversion and torture and large scale protests were held by the Native Americans against his canonization. According to the claims of Native American organizations, Serra’s mission killed some 90 percent of Native Californians at that time.

Italian Padre Pio (1887-1968) who was canonized by John Paul II in 2002 was described as ignorant and psychopath by many and it was a widely held belief that his order of monks was busy in exploiting financial gains by displaying Pio’s stigmata and comparing it to the Crucifixion marks of Jesus Christ. Due to these controversies, the Vatican was initially against Padre Pio but, under the compulsions that only they can explain, the later popes dismissed all allegations against Padre Pio.

Probably the most famous canonization controversy is of Pope Pius IX (1792-1878), the last pope to rule over the Papal States before they fell to the Italian army. He was pope for over 31 years and is now reviled for his dogmatic views, his hatred for modernism and his fad on the supremacy of the papal teachings. He called Jews dogs and is notorious for abducting an six year old Jewish boy only because he was secretly baptized by a Roman Catholic maid. Attempts to beatify him, the first step towards the canonization process, failed many times due to widespread criticism and protests. But the formidable Pope John Paul II beatified him in 2000. Let’s see when and by whom he is canonized.

In fact, Pope Pius IX was a compromise replacement for Pope Pius XII (1876-1958), another controversial pope whose canonization has been vehemently opposed for not doing enough on the Holocaust, the massacre carried out by Germany and its allied nations in the Second World War. The conduct of his papacy has been widely criticized. Though the process to canonize him was started in 1965, he is yet to be beatified.

Cardinal Alojzije Stepinac of Croatia (1898-1960) was another controversial candidate who was beatified by John Paul II. He was beatified in 1998 but his canonization is still due. John Paul II described him as a martyr of faith as he had led Croatian church in the Second World War. His wartime records and affiliations have been questioned and Jews and Serbs say he did not criticize their massacre during the war the way he should have. He, in fact, supported the Independent Croatia that came into being with support from Adolf Hitler’s Germany.

These are some of the most talked about canonization controversies. The whole list is long. But the Vatican remains unaffected, unmoved. Because for the Vatian, “being the martyr/proponent of faith” has always been the primary criteria to declare someone a saint. Pope John Paul II, while beatifying Cardinal Stepinac, had said, “Beatifying a son of the church does not celebrate particular historic choices that he has made, but rather points him out for imitation and for veneration for his virtue (read adherence to church and faith here).” It is rare that the Vatican canonization process finds some who has also been a crusader of humanity that Mother Teresa was.



Reports say, after Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), now Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangha (RSS) has expressed its displeasure on the Government of India decision to send a high party delegation to the Vatican City to participate in Mother Teresa’s Canonization Mass on September 4 when she will be declared a saint formally.

Going by the past rhetoric of these organizations, it is not unexpected. What was pleasant was how Narendra Modi summed up the emotion of the masses on the issue during his monthly radio address to the nation, “Mann Ki Baat” on August 28.

He rightly described how a person of Albanian origin, with no knowledge of English, adopted India and made its destitute people mission of her life. When he said that a high level delegation led by the External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj would represent India in Vatican, it was an expression of the wishes of the majority of Indians, unlike those few who still see “good and bad” defined by the demarcation of the religious lines.

Like VHP’s Surendra Jain rushed to criticize Narendra Modi on his knowledge of history and how a “Mother Teresa sainthood” would hasten proselytization. Even RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat has concluded that though Mother Teresa’s work was good, it was not selfless. While delivering a lectures last year, in February 2015, Bhagwat linked Mother Teresa’s work with conversion, saying it was her primary motive. Bhagwat’s remarks had come at a time when Narendra Modi was busy in initiatives to heal and win back Christians’ confidence after a series of church attacks that later proved non-religious in nature.

Here are two things that we should go by.

Mother Teresa’s work was termed selfish when she devoted her whole life in the service of the poorest of the poor. When she left the world, she left an institution to serve the people. She didn’t keep anything for her, living a simple and austere life. When her work is called selfish, it really pains us, who see a motherly figure in her. Shouldn’t we stop seeing the extent of the kindness of greats from a religious eye?

Conversion? Why its fear is still instilled in us? Why our opinion leaders and politicians still try such loaded words?

How can 13.8 crore Muslims and 2.4 crore Christians be a threat to convert 82.7 crore Hindus to their fold?

There is famous saying in Hinduism – and I believe it should be there in almost every religion, if religions evolve to organize and better human lives – that you cannot think of worshipping God when you are hungry and the survival crisis is the sole question haunting you. That is the story of majority of Indians. The first duty of our opinion leaders and politicians should be to feed them first, to lift their lives out of survival hell.

Where our systems failed, people like Mother Teresa filled the gap. And yet it was not enough. India has more than 3 million registered non-governmental organizations. “The government, with restrain on resources, alone cannot reach to all in a country like India with widespread poverty and illiteracy” was the basic idea that allowed such a large number of NGOs in the country – so that they can go to the spaces where the government cannot.

The second thing that again reinforces the feeling that whenever there is a crisis on religious/community lines in the society, it is fuelled by motivated interests, is that none of incidents of church attacks last year were found religiously motivated. There was a great hue and cry and the whole political lot as well as evangelical institutions, from India and abroad, were propagating something like Christianity was in some imminent danger in India, especially after a Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) led government was the incharge of affairs in India whose ideological mentor RSS has always been suspicious of the motives of the Christian missionaries working in India, something that even reflected in the Mohan Bhagwat statement mentioned above.

But nothing happened. India as secure for Hindus, as for Muslims, Christians and other faiths.

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It is in such a bad taste that the mind desperately urges to run away from the TV sets or think of that impossible situation where they all could be dumped somewhere deep so that their twisted voices cannot surface. These so called Seers, Gurus, Saints, the modern day Shankaracharyas, the Sadhus, the religious Satraps, and their ugly bickering in the name of sanctifying the religion and their silly and unpardonable crusades – who is asking them to represent us – who are they to interfere in our personal matters?

Practicing religion is personal and no one has any right to issue a diktat to follow this or that God or this or that Saint or a diktat on whom to believe in as a God. But ‘they doing so’ tells us they do not follow the religion they boast to represent. In fact no religion allows for gaudy display of God ownership and faith ownership. Unfortunately, such ‘representatives’ have had a long run.

Every religion, in its true essence, preaches and teaches love and peace. If we don’t talk of the distortions and the distorted leading opinions, no one religion imposes itself on the other. In essence, every religion is anti-crusade, in its purest, in its spiritual form. In fact, a devout religious soul respects other religions in the same way as his/her.

And who can symbolize it better than the Mother Teresa – who was born on August 26, 1910 in Albania, a European country under the Ottoman Empire then – and who spent her whole life in India since 1928. She was a devout catholic and followed the ways and the teachings of Jesus religiously. It is said Jesus came to her asking her to be His messenger, spreading the message of His love and peace by working for those who needed it the most, the poor, the needy, and in-turn, receiving the love and peace Himself, because He exists in every such soul. And she followed the message, with her beginning in 1948, when she established an order to work for the poor, and she was soon to become the Mother.

It hurt Jesus to love us, it hurt him. And to make sure we remember his great love he made himself the bread of life to satisfy our hunger for his love. Our hunger for God, because we have been created for that love. We have been created in his image. We have been created to love and be loved, and then he has become man to make it possible for us to love as he loved us. He makes himself the hungry one – the naked one – the homeless one – the sick one – the one in prison – the lonely one – the unwanted one – and he says: You did it to me. Hungry for our love, and this is the hunger of our poor people. This is the hunger that you and I must find, it may be in our own home.
(From the Nobel Lecture delivered by the Mother on December 11, 1979 on being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.)

She remained a devout Catholic throughout her life but devoted her life to the people of a largely Hindu country. She never asked for the religion. Her doors were open to everyone. She found Jesus in every needy soul. She became so Indian that she is known as the ‘Blessed Teresa of Calcutta’. In fact, her religious adherence was her inspiration, the force behind her motherly love. People loving her are in every walk of like, in India, around the world, something that the so called religious satraps of Hinduism, Islam, Christianity or for that matter any other religion can never even dream of. What is happening to her Order is debatable and even Mother Teresa’s life and works have seen many controversies but when we remember her, the first image that comes before us is of a loving mother who gave her whole in the service of the poor. She remains among the people even after her passing away in 1997 because she remains in the soul of humanity.

Though she is going to be canonized on September 4 by the Vatican that will officially accord her the status of being a Saint, she has always been seen like the one. In fact, Saints should like her, a modern day Saint as the TIME magazine’s “Mother Teresa at 100: The Life and Works of a Modern Saint” rightly says, not like them who are ready to tear into each other yesterday and today, on TV sets, in public. Thanks for blessing humanity dear Mother. Thanks for blessing India. Thanks for being there for those who needed peace and who desperately needed help. Thanks for being there Mother.