Vatican City: Mother Teresa of Calcutta, now Kolkata, will be made an official saint of the Roman Catholic Church on Sunday, just 19 years after her death.
A Nobel peace prize winner, Mother Teresa was one of the most influential women in the Church’s 2,000-year history, acclaimed for her work amongst the world’s poorest of the poor in the slums of Kolkata.
Hundreds of thousands of faithful are expected to attend the canonization service for the tiny nun, which will be led by Pope Francis in front of St. Peter’s basilica.
Mother Teresa is revered as a model of compassion who brought relief to the sick and dying, opening branches of her Missionaries of Charity (MoC) order around the world.
“Even in popular culture she’s identified with goodness, kindness, charity,” said Father Brian Kolodiejchuk, the MoC priest who campaigned for her sainthood.
In novels or movies often characters say, “‘Oh, who do you think I am? Mother Teresa?'” he told Reuters.
Her critics view her differently, arguing she did little to alleviate the pain of the terminally ill and nothing to stamp out the root causes of poverty.
PM Modi, in a radio broadcast on Sunday, said, “All her life she worked to serve poorer sections of Indian society. When such a person is conferred with sainthood, it is natural for Indians to feel proud.”
Ahead of the canonization, Pope Francis tweeted, “Let us imitate Mother Teresa who made works of mercy the guide of her life and the path towards holiness.”
Mother Teresa was born Agnese Gonxha Bojaxhiu of Albanian parents in 1910 in what was then part of the Ottoman Empire and is now Macedonia. She became a nun at 16 and moved to India in 1929, creating her mission in 1950.
The Roman Catholic Church has more than 10,000 saints, many of whom had to wait centuries before their elevation.
But Mother Teresa, one of the most recognizable faces of the 20th century, was put on the fast track to sainthood after dying of a heart attack on September 5, 1997.
The late Pope John Paul II bent Vatican rules to allow the procedure to establish her case for sainthood to be launched two years after her death instead of the usual five, and she was beatified in 2003.
The Church defines saints as those believed to have been holy enough during their lives to now be in Heaven and able to intercede with God to perform miracles. She has been credited with two miracles, both involving the healing of sick people.
The latest involved a Brazilian, Marcilio Andrino, who unexpectedly recovered from a severe brain infection in 2008. He and his wife Fernanda will attend the canonization, which is considered the highlight of Pope Francis’s Holy Year of Mercy.
Monica Besra, a poor tribal from a village around 400 km from Kolkata, claims she was cured of a large stomach tumor in 1998 after she was touched by a dazzling ray of light from Mother Teresa’s photo.
“Mother Teresa is like God for me. She helped me get well. I always remember,” Ms Besra told NDTV on Saturday.