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 Friday, 20 December, 2002, 15:31 GMT
Pope accepts 'Mother Teresa miracle'
Mother Teresa
Mother Teresa was regarded by many as a living saint
Pope John Paul II has signed decrees accepting as authentic a miracle attributed to Mother Teresa, putting her a step closer to sainthood.

The Pope judged that the curing of an Indian woman suffering from an abdominal tumour was the result of the supernatural intervention of Mother Teresa.
A Missionary of Charity volunteer in front of a statue of Mother Teresa in Calcutta
Hundreds of miracles have been attributed to Mother Teresa

The Pope's decision means the way is now clear for Mother Teresa's beatification, which is one step short of canonisation.

This is expected to happen on 19 October 2003.

Mother Teresa's full canonisation would probably follow within a year or two, bestowing upon her the Catholic Church's highest honour. However, a second miracle will be needed for sainthood to be declared.

'Heroic virtues'

It is rare in modern times for people to reach sainthood in the short time predicted for the Albanian-born nun, who died in 1997 at the age of 87.

St Thomas Church, in Calcutta, where the body of Mother Teresa is laid to rest
Mother Teresa, laid to rest in a Calcutta church, won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979

It normally takes decades - sometimes centuries - for the Vatican to complete the exhaustive inquiries it deems necessary to confirm without doubt purported miracles of potential saints.

But, as a sign of his admiration and affection, the Pope waived the customary five-year waiting period to begin the procedures which can lead to sainthood.

He approved the October finding from a Vatican commission that the healing of a Bengali tribal woman, Monica Besra, was a miracle.

It is claimed that a locket with Mother Teresa's photo on it cured the woman of a stomach tumour in Calcutta in 1998.

'Bogus' claims

Though a commission of doctors who examined the case said they had no explanation for the cure, some rationalist associations in India have challenged the miracle.

They described it as bogus, claiming that Monica Besra had responded to medical treatment rather than any miracle.

Mother Teresa was born Agnes Gonxhe Bojaxhiu in Skopje, Macedonia, in 1910.

In 1949 she founded the Missionaries of Charity, dedicating her life to caring for impoverished and sick people in Calcutta.

Mother Teresa - also known as the "saint of the gutter" - earned worldwide acclaim for her efforts and won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979.

See also:

04 Oct 02 | South Asia
12 Aug 02 | South Asia
06 Sep 01 | South Asia
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