BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific Russian Polish Albanian Greek Czech Ukrainian Serbian Turkish Romanian
BBCi NEWS   SPORT   WEATHER   WORLD SERVICE   A-Z INDEX     

BBC News World Edition
 You are in: Europe  
News Front Page
Africa
Americas
Asia-Pacific
Europe
Middle East
South Asia
UK
Business
Entertainment
Science/Nature
Technology
Health
-------------
Talking Point
-------------
Country Profiles
In Depth
-------------
Programmes
-------------
BBC Sport
BBC Weather
SERVICES
-------------
LANGUAGES
EDITIONS
Friday, 29 November, 2002, 22:02 GMT
Mother Teresa on fast track for sainthood
Mother Teresa
No one has ever reached beatification so quickly

Mother Teresa - the Roman Catholic nun regarded in her lifetime as a living saint on account of her work among the poor and the dying of Calcutta - is set to achieve the first step towards official sainthood by May 2003, less than six years after her death.

Before Christmas, Pope John Paul II will declare the Roman Catholic Church's authentication of the miraculous cure of an Indian woman from stomach cancer in Calcutta in 1998 through the intervention of Mother Teresa.

They think that... my intimacy with God and union with His Will are filling my heart - if they only knew

Mother Teresa

It normally takes decades, and sometimes centuries, for Rome to complete the exhaustive enquiries it deems necessary to confirm without doubt and for all time the merits, moral defects (if any) and purported miracles of potential saints.

On 20 December, the Pope is expected to announce the exact date of Mother Teresa's beatification next year.

Her full canonisation is likely to follow within a year or two, bestowing upon her the Catholic Church's highest honour.

Doubts of faith

Sainthood means that Catholics around the world will be encouraged to venerate Mother Teresa for her heroic virtues.

Mother Teresa
She was haunted by religious doubts
The very idea of "fast track sainthood" seems a contradiction in terms in the offices of the Vatican's Congregation for the Causes of Saints, the department which has been collecting voluminous dossiers on holy men and women since the year 1588.

No one has ever reached beatification in such a short time as Mother Teresa.

Yet according to a book just published in Italy, Mother Teresa's Secret, Italian writer Saverio Gaeta writes that Mother Teresa's faith in God was severely tested during one period of her life.

Private thoughts

According to secret diaries and letters which she told her spiritual director not to publish during her lifetime, for 50 years the Albanian nun was haunted by religious doubt.

Many saints of the Church have been mystics who suffered dark periods of doubt and torment about their faith

Manlio Asta, theologian

"I have to keep smiling all the time," she once confessed in a letter to a Jesuit priest, which forms part of her dossier sent to Rome from India.

"They think that it is my faith, my hope and my love that is overwhelming me, and that my intimacy with God and union with His Will are filling my heart. If they only knew."

Rome theologian Manlio Asta commented:

"Many saints of the Church have been mystics who suffered dark periods of doubt and torment about their faith. The fact that Mother Teresa also doubted cannot be an obstacle to her beatification."

The nun also reveals in her diaries and letters that she had visions - in church jargon "interior locutions" - and says she was instructed by Jesus Christ himself to found a new religious order of nuns who would sacrifice everything in their lives to look after the poorest of the poor in India, people often abandoned to die, and whom no one else would touch.

She writes in her diary that she heard "a voice" telling her that the sisters in her new order should go around in pairs, one to minister to the sick, the other to the dying.

Mother Teresa with an orphan
She had an extraordinary sense of charity
"To move about fast each nun should learn to ride a bicycle, some how to drive a bus," Mother Teresa wrote in 1947 from Darjeeling.

This was a relatively daring concept in the context of Calcutta in the 1940s where two young women would rarely be seen walking in the street, let along driving together in a van, without being accompanied by a man.

Mother Teresa was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in recognition of her life's work.

She founded two orders of nuns and three male religious orders. The best known are the Missionaries of Charity who now operate worldwide and number nearly five thousand.

Humour

I once met her briefly for an interview at Rome airport as she was flying in from one mission in Asia, en route to another in Canada.

She had no registered luggage and carried all her worldly goods with her wrapped up in a small white cloth satchel.

Dressed in the blue hemmed white robes of her order she seemed an insignificant figure as we sat side by side in the arrivals terminal.

But apart from her extraordinary sense of charity, what struck me also was the humour in her eyes.

She explained with glee, and also a touch of mischievousness, I thought, that the Indian government had given her a lifetime free first class ticket on Air India to help her keep in contact with her nuns working in the far corners of the world.

"I just fly in unannounced and ask to see the local head of state or prime minister and normally they receive me immediately," she told me.

See also:

04 Oct 02 | South Asia
12 Aug 02 | South Asia
06 Sep 01 | South Asia
Internet links:


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Europe stories are at the foot of the page.


E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Europe stories

© BBC ^^ Back to top

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East |
South Asia | UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature |
Technology | Health | Talking Point | Country Profiles | In Depth |
Programmes