VATICAN CITY • Mother Teresa, a nun who dedicated her life to helping the poor, will be made a saint of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis has announced.
The Pontiff yesterday set Sept 4 as the date for her canonisation, elevating her to an official icon in the Catholic faith. Last December, he cleared the way for sainthood for the Nobel peace laureate, who died in 1997 at the age of 87 and was known as "the saint of the gutters".
The move comes 19 years after the death of the Albanian nun who dedicated most of her adult life to working with the poor of Kolkata, India.
The Vatican said the ceremony would be held in Rome, dashing the hopes of Indians that the Pope would go to Kolkata to perform the ritual. A thanksgiving ceremony is expected to be held at a later date in the Indian city, where Mother Teresa is buried.
Mother Teresa was born Agnese Gonxha Bojaxhiu of Albanian parents in 1910 in what was then part of the Ottoman Empire and is now Macedonia.
She founded the Missionaries of Charity, a religious order of nuns, in the 1950s to help the poor on the streets of Kolkata. It spread throughout the world. She won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979.
"It has been absolutely jubilant news and I can't thank God enough that it is happening in my lifetime," said Missionaries of Charity spokesman Sunita Kumar.
Pope Francis, who has made concern for the poor a major plank of his papacy, has been keen to make Mother Teresa a saint during the Church's current Holy Year.
The Pope, who regards Mother Teresa as the incarnation of the kind of Church he wants to lead, met the internationally famous nun three years before her death when he was still a bishop in Argentina. He later joked that she had seemed so formidable he "would have been scared if she had been my Mother Superior".
The late Pope John Paul II bent Vatican rules to allow the procedure to establish her case for sainthood to be launched two years after her death instead of the usual five. She was beatified in 2003, a mere six years after her death.
The church defines saints as those believed to have been holy enough during their lives to now be in Heaven and who can intercede with God to perform miracles. She has been credited by the Church with two miracles, both involving the healing of sick people.
Last year, she was credited by Vatican experts with inspiring the 2008 recovery of a Brazilian man suffering from multiple brain tumours, thus meeting the Church's standard requirement for sainthood of having been involved in two certifiable miracles.
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE