Mother Teresa Was One of Century's Greatest Missionaries, Pope Says
John Paul II Receives Her Spiritual Children a Day After Beatification
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VATICAN CITY, OCT. 21, 2003 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II described Mother Teresa as "one of the greatest missionaries of the 20th century," when he received more than 6,000 pilgrims who attended the beatification ceremony.
"A missionary with the most universal language: that of charity without limits, or exclusions, or preferences, with the exception of the most abandoned," the Holy Father said Monday in Paul VI Hall, addressing in particular the men and women Missionaries of Charity.
Earlier, an at-times heavy rain in St. Peter's Square did not discourage the pilgrims from attending a thanksgiving Mass for the beatification of the Albanian religious. Mother Teresa was beatified Sunday. Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins, prefect of the Congregation for Sainthood Causes, celebrated the Mass today.
After the Mass, the crowd moved to Paul VI Hall to meet with the Pope and hear his address, which was read partly in Italian and partly in English by two priests.
John Paul II began by greeting Sister Nirmala Joshi, superior general of the Missionaries of Charity, and he recalled "the day in which Mother Teresa came to Rome to introduce her to me personally."
"There is no doubt that the new blessed was one of the greatest missionaries of the 20th century," the Holy Father said. "Of this simple woman, from one of the poorest areas of Europe, the Lord made a chosen instrument to proclaim the Gospel to the whole world, not with preaching, but with daily acts of love to the poorest."
"A missionary of God who is charity, who has preference for the little and humble ones, who bends over man wounded in body and spirit," he added. "God did this in the Person of his Son, made man, Jesus Christ, Good Samaritan of humanity. And he continues to do it in the Church, especially through the saints of charity. Mother Teresa shines out in a special way among them."
"Where did Mother Teresa find the strength to place herself completely at the service of others?" the Pope asked.
"She found it in prayer and in the silent contemplation of Jesus Christ, his holy face, his Sacred Heart," he replied. "She herself said as much: 'The fruit of silence is prayer; the fruit of prayer is faith; the fruit of faith is love; the fruit of love is service; the fruit of service is peace.'"
"Peace, even at the side of the dying, even in nations at war, even in the face of attacks and hostile criticism. It was prayer that filled her heart with Christ's own peace and enabled her to radiate that peace to others," he added.
"She always spoke out in defense of human life, even when her message was unwelcome," the Pope added. "Mother Teresa's whole existence was a hymn to life. Her daily encounters with death, leprosy, AIDS and every kind of human suffering made her a forceful witness to the Gospel of life.
"Her very smile was a 'yes' to life, a joyful 'yes,' born of profound faith and love, a 'yes' purified in the crucible of suffering. She renewed that 'yes' each morning, in union with Mary, at the foot of Christ's cross. The thirst of the crucified Jesus became Mother Teresa's own thirst and the inspiration of her path of holiness."
"Teresa of Calcutta was a real mother," the Pope said. "Mother of the poor, of children. Mother of so many young women and men who had her as spiritual guide and have shared her mission."
He added: "You, sons and daughters of Mother Teresa, are the most eloquent signs of this prophetic fruitfulness. Preserve her charism unaltered and follow her example and she, from heaven, will not fail to support you in your daily journey."