Mother Teresa soon a 'saint' in the Catholic Church

by Gregory Tomlin, |
Slum children in Calcutta pray toward a painting of Mother Teresa September 9, 1997. She had died four days earlier. | REUTERS/Sunil Malhotra

ROME (Christian Examiner) – Pope Francis announced March 15 that the Catholic Church will declare Mother Teresa and four others saints in canonization ceremonies later this year.

The pontiff made the announcement after midmorning prayers in the Consistory Hall of the Apostolic Palace, Vatican Radio reported.

Mother Teresa, who founded the order known as Missionaries of Charity, worked for decades among the poor in the slums of Calcutta, India. Many of the nuns in the order are expected to attend the canonization ceremony in September 2016.

Born Anjezë Gonxhe Bojaxhiu in Albania in 1910, Mother Teresa left home at age 18 to pursue work as a missionary. She taught school in Calcutta for several years, and it was during India's 1943 famine – in the midst of World War II – that she took on her work with the poor. It became her singular focus. She was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979.

In Catholic theology, two miracles must have been attributed to a man or woman in order for them to be canonized.

One miracle attributed to Teresa occurred in 2003 when a non-Christian woman was suffering from a tumor. The members of the Missionaries of Charity reportedly sought intercession from Mother Teresa, who died in 1997, and the next morning the woman's tumor was said to be gone. That miracle led to Teresa's beatification.

In December 2015, Pope Francis attributed a second miracle to Mother Teresa – the healing of a man with brain lesions, also long after her death. Others also had reportedly interceded for him in the name of the nun from Calcutta.

In addition to Mother Teresa, Pope Francis will also canonize:

– Jan Papczynski, known as Blessed Stanislaus of Jesus and Mary, who founded the order Marians of the Immaculate Conception.

– Blessed Maria Elizabeth Hesselblad of Sweden, who prayed for unity among Lutheran and Catholic Christians. She was a convert to Catholicism from Lutheranism.

– Blessed José Gabriel del Rosario, the "gaucho priest," who traveled throughout his parish in Argentina on the back of a mule to do the work of the church. He will canonized in October.

– Blessed José Luis Sánchez del Río of Mexico, reportedly "martyred" by the Mexican government in the Cristeros War for refusing to deny the church.

Protestant Christians reject the idea of intercession through any person other than Jesus Christ. Critics also argue that the Roman Catholic legion of saints is a vestige of paganism, where heroes of old achieved divine status – a process called apotheosis or deification.