Mother Teresa’s Canonization Prompts Praise and Controversy

By Anthony Tokarz
Staff Writer

On the first Sunday of September, a crowd of 120,000 packed into St. Peter’s Square in Vatican City to celebrate the formal elevation of Mother Teresa of Calcutta to sainthood, The New York Times reports.

Mother Teresa devoted half a century to her mission of charity toward the poorest inhabitants of Calcutta, now Kolkata. She forged for herself a reputation so renowned in the Catholic Church that, of Pope Francis’s 29 canonization ceremonies, only the joint canonization of Pope John Paul II and Pope John XXIII in 2014 saw more pilgrims — at least 800,000 — flood into the Vatican.

Unlike that of Pope John Paul II, who was pontiff for 27 years until his death, and that of John XXIII, whose willingness to embrace what he saw as the better elements of modernity resulted in the revolutionary Second Vatican Council, Mother Teresa’s canonization was not met with universal praise.

According to Fox News, there was much celebration in Skopje, Mother Teresa’s birthplace, now the capital of Macedonia. Hundreds of people gathered in the city’s main square to conclude a week of public celebration and thanksgiving in her honor. The celebration also included a public broadcast of the Vatican proceedings and a visit to the ruins of the house where she was born.

But in Kolkata, reactions were mixed. On the day of the canonization, hundreds of Christians, Muslims, and Hindus assembled in the global headquarters of the Missionaries of Charity, the religious order founded by Mother Teresa. Others, like Kolkata-born journalist Sandip Roy, worry that Mother Teresa has consumed the city’s historical identity, distracting foreigners from its beauty by emphasizing local poverty.

Mother Teresa’s legacy has many critics, according to The Washington Post. She has been criticized for refusing proper medical treatment for those she took in unless they converted to Christianity, and for failing to fight poverty on a broader scale. Others take issue with her acceptance of honors and grants from the Haitian dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier, as well as her adamant opposition to contraception, abortion, and divorce. Critics have accused her of having an ulterior motive to convert people to Christianity rather than selflessly helping the sick and poor.

Mother Teresa’s canonization coincides with the end of 2016, which Pope Francis had declared the Year of Mercy. To emphasize Mother Teresa’s charity, Pope Francis brought homeless people from all over Italy to Vatican City, seating them in places of honor for the canonization, according to the BBC.

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