'Miracle' moves Mother Teresa closer to sainthood

Peter Popham@peterpopham
Saturday 21 December 2002 01:00

Mother Teresa of Calcutta will be known as Blessed Teresa following a ceremony at the Vatican yesterday during which the Pope formally recognised the validity of a miracle attributed to her spiritual power.

In 1998, Monica Besra, a tribal woman from West Bengal, recovered from what had been diagnosed as terminal stomach cancer, and attributed it to the intervention of Mother Teresa, the Nobel peace prize winner who was born an Albanian but died an Indian.

Indian rationalists, doctors and the woman's husband disputed Mother Teresa's involvement, claiming the recovery was due to strong medicine, but yesterday the Pope approved the miracle. He set 19 October next year as the date for beatification, the last stop before sainthood.

Once a second miracle has been identified and approved, the way will be clear for the nun who set up hospices for the dying, and many other charitable institutions around the world to join the company of saints – one of the swiftest promotions in church history.

The Pope had a strong personal attachment to Mother Teresa, and after her death in Calcutta in 1997 waived the stipulation that five years must elapse before the beatification process can begin. The Pope has created more than 460 saints in his 24 years on St Peter's throne, more than all other modern-day popes put together. He believes that by so doing he creates role models for the faithful.

The pitfall is that there are people still alive who remember the new saints with all their human frailties. A collection of Mother Teresa's writings published this month reveals that she wrestled with spiritual doubts throughout her life.

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