Mother Teresa, the revered Albanian nun whose work with the dying and the destitute made her an icon of 20th Century Christianity, will be declared a saint on Sunday.
The elevation of the Nobel Peace Prize winner to Catholicism’s celestial pantheon comes on the eve of the 19th anniversary of her death in the Kolkata slums with which she is synonymous.
Teresa worked with the poorest of the poor in the sprawling metropolis formerly known as Calcutta for nearly four decades, having initially come to eastern India as a missionary teacher with Ireland’s Loreto order.
Born to Kosovar Albanian parents in what is now Macedonia in 1910, Teresa died in 1997. By then she was a household name around the world and also a citizen of India, the adopted homeland that embraced the diminutive and doggedly determined sister to the extent that she was granted a state funeral.
Her canonisation has been completed in unusually quick time on the back of the extraordinary popularity she enjoyed during her lifetime and with the help of influential supporters.
The late pope John Paul II, a personal friend, was the pontiff at the time of Teresa’s death. He fast-tracked her beatification (the step before sainthood).
The current pope, Francis, is also an admirer of a woman he sees as embodying his vision of a “poor church for the poor.”
The Missionaries of Charity, the order that Teresa created in 1950, now operates in 133 countries and comprises almost 5,000 male and female members.