Mother Teresa of Calcutta, a Nobel peace laureate known as the “saint of the gutters” during her lifetime, will be canonized as Saint of the Roman Catholic Church on Sunday.
The canonization of Mother Teresa in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican will be led by Pope Francis. As such, more than 100,000 pilgrims are expected to attend the service to honor the tiny nun who worked among the worlds’ neediest in the slums of the Indian city now known as Kolkata.
Delegations from at least 15 national governments are also expected at the Vatican.
Mother Teresa’s journey to being a Saint was not easy. Her Missionaries of Charity (MoC) order have been criticized both during her life and since her death in 1997. However, Catholics revere her as a model of compassion.
Critics also say she did little to alleviate the pain of the terminally ill and nothing to tackle the root causes of poverty. Atheist writer Christopher Hitchens made a documentary about her called “Hell’s Angel.” She was also accused of trying to convert the destitute in predominantly Hindu India to Christianity, a charge her mission has repeatedly denied.
But despite being criticized, legacy of Mother Teresa fits neatly with Francis’ vision of a poor church that strives to serve the poor. Thus, the ceremony will be highlight of his Holy Year of Mercy which runs until November 8. Thousands attended a papal audience on Saturday in the Vatican, where a large canvas of the late nun in her blue-hemmed white robes hung from St. Peter’s basilica.
“Her testimony makes us reflect and transform…and make a better world,” Brazilian priest Carlos Jose Nacimento said.
The Sainthood of Mother Teresa has been undoubted by Pope John Paul II who often met her and put her on a fast track to elevation two years after her death instead of the usual five.
Allegedly, the Church defines as saints those believed to have led such holy lives they are now in Heaven and can intercede with God to perform miracles — two of which are needed to confer sainthood. Mother Teresa was credited for healing an Indian woman from stomach cancer in 1998 and a Brazilian man from a brain infection in 2008.
According to reports, the canonization of mother Teresa will also be celebrated in Skopje, the capital of modern Macedonia where Mother Teresa was born of Albanian parents in 1910 and became a nun aged 16.
Although there will be no major ceremony, there will also be prayers, talks and cultural events in Kolkata where the first MoC mission was set up in 1952.