Pope Beatifies Mother Teresa in Front of 300,000

Founder of Missionaries of Charity Honored

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VATICAN CITY, OCT. 19, 2003 (Zenit.org).- A visibly moved John Paul II beatified Mother Teresa of Calcutta, "whom I have always felt close to me," before a crowd of 300,000 overflowing St. Peter's Square.



More than 100 cardinals and numerous bishops accompanied the Pope as he beatified the world-famous servant of the poorest of the poor. The beatification of the founder of the Missionaries of Charity came on World Mission Sunday.

Some 500 Missionaries of Charity in their white-and-blue saris attended the ceremony, where the front rows were reserved for 3,500 poor. Also present were representatives of the Orthodox Church and two Muslim communities from Albania. Mother Teresa (1910-1997) was born to an ethnic Albanian family.

Next to Sister Nirmala Joshi, Mother Teresa's successor and superior general of the Missionaries of Charity, were the heads of other institutes founded by the new blessed. Also present was Monika Besra, the Indian woman inexplicably cured of an abdominal tumor through Mother Teresa's intercession.

"Brothers, sisters: Today also, God raises new models of sanctity, such as Mother Teresa of Calcutta," the Pope said.

Archbishop Lucas Sirkar of Calcutta implored the Holy Father: "We pray that he will raise to the register of blessed the servant of God, Teresa of Calcutta." The archbishop gave way to the reading of biographical data on the religious.

John Paul II then pronounced the formula of beatification -- "We allow that the venerable servant of God Teresa of Calcutta henceforth be called blessed." The faithful broke the silence with great applause as a tapestry was unveiled depicting a smiling Mother Teresa.

With her beatification, the number of blessed proclaimed during this 25-year pontificate rises to 1,321.

Then, amid Indian dances and songs, and a sense of prayer, a group of young Indian women dressed in white saris carried a relic of Mother Teresa in procession to the altar.

Following in Jesus' footsteps, Mother Teresa became an "image of the Good Samaritan," undertaking a "journey of love and service which goes against all human logic," the Pope said in his homily, integrally read by Archbishop Leonardo Sandri, substitute for general affairs of the Vatican Secretariat of State, and by Cardinal Ivan Dias, archbishop of Bombay.

Added to today's eucharistic liturgy was the "Arati" Indian ritual of adoration and reverence and intimacy with God, used in solemn Masses. During the rite, several Indian women dressed in colorful saris danced and offered incense and the light of flames among flowers, which they raised before the Most Blessed Sacrament.

The Pope established Sept. 5 as Mother Teresa's feast day -- "the day of her birth in heaven." At the end of the Mass, he greeted the faithful in English, Macedonian, Albanian and Italian. Then he prayed the Angelus.

"Let us remember that Mary Most Holy was always Mother Teresa's model, both in prayer as well as in her missionary action," the Holy Father said. "Through the intercession of the new blessed, may the Virgin obtain for us progress in love of God and of our neighbor."

Finally, the Pope was driven in an open vehicle around St. Peter's Square, as he blessed the crowds who responded with applause and the waving of flags of numerous countries.

After the ceremony, transmitted live in some 50 countries, the poor who attended the Mass were invited to Paul VI Hall to have lunch with Sister Nirmala, served by ambassadors of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization from all over the world.