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Monday, July 26, 1999 Published at 14:26 GMT 15:26 UK

World: South Asia

Mother Teresa on brink of sainthood

Mother Teresa's dealings with benefactors are shrouded in controversy

By Religious Affairs Correspondent Jane Little

The late Mother Teresa of Calcutta has moved a step closer to sainthood with the opening of a tribunal in her home city to investigate her case.

The tribunal, based in Calcutta, where Mother Teresa ministered to the poor and sick for several decades, must examine the Albanian-born nun's character and actions to decide whether she qualifies for beatification, the first step towards sainthood.

The BBC's Alice Coulter: "Her followers were hoping for a fastrack sainthood"
In March, the Pope took the unprecedented decision to speed up the process for her beatification, citing overwhelming popular demand.

But critics argue that the late nun should not be given special privilege and controversy continues to surround her dealings with some of her benefactors.

Popular demand

Since her death in 1997, the Vatican has received a huge mailbag from people requesting a speedy sainthood for Mother Teresa.

Many attributed miracles to her - a prerequisite of saint-making - in the hope they will be included as evidence.

Catholic affairs writer Michael Walsh explains the steps to sainthood
The Vatican normally adheres to strict church rules governing the making of saints, but in March the pope waived the requirement for a five-year waiting period after a person's death, and signalled that Mother Teresa's case could be set in motion.

A formal petition and report on her life has already been completed, which now goes to be cross-examined by a 12-member panel.

But while Mother Teresa was a champion of the poor, she was highly controversial.

The tribunal, which reports to the Vatican, must also look at her acceptance of large donations from the former Haitian dictator, "Baby Doc" Duvalier, and the disgraced media tycoon, Robert Maxwell.

Critics also accused Mother Teresa of caring more about the salvation of souls than saving the sick and dying.

But in spite of the criticisms, it is expected that the Pope, a friend of the late nun, will beatify Mother Teresa by the new Millennium.

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