VATICAN CITY (AFP/Reuters) - Pope Francis on Sunday (Sept 4) declared revered nun Mother Teresa a saint in a canonisation mass at St Peter's Square in the Vatican City.
"For the honour of the Blessed Trinity... we declare and define Blessed Teresa of Calcutta (Kolkata) to be a Saint and we enroll her among the Saints, decreeing that she is to be venerated as such by the whole Church," the Pontiff said in Latin.
The elevation of one of the icons of 20th Century Christianity came a day before the 19th anniversary of her death in Kolkata, the Indian city where she spent nearly four decades working with the dying and the destitute and was known as the "saint of the gutters"
Pilgrims streamed into St. Peter's Square at the Vatican in their thousands from the early morning ahead of the canonisation service to honour the tiny nun and Nobel peace laureate, who worked among the world's neediest.
Her legacy complements Pope Francis' vision of a humble church that strives to serve the poor, and the festivities are a highlight of his Holy Year of Mercy, which runs until Nov 8.
Millions of Catholics revere her as a model of compassion, and more than 100,000 people were present for the mid-morning ceremony in front of St Peter's Basilica, decked out with a canvas of the late nun in her trademark blue-hemmed white robes.
"Everything she did gave an example to the entire world,"said 17-year-old student Massimiliano D'Aniello, from Grosseto, Italy, who made a musical about Mother Teresa with his friends. "She showed we can't all do everything, but little gestures made with so much love are what's important."
Critics say she did little to alleviate the pain of the terminally ill and nothing to tackle the root causes of poverty. Atheist writer Christopher Hitchens made a documentary about her called "Hell's Angel".
She was also accused of trying to convert the destitute in predominantly-Hindu India to Christianity, a charge her mission has repeatedly denied.
But Pope John Paul II, who met her often, had no doubt about her eligibility for sainthood, and put her on a fast track to canonisation two years after her death instead of the usual five.
The Church defines as saints those believed to have led such holy lives they are now in Heaven and can intercede with God to perform miracles - two of which are needed to confer sainthood.
She is credited with healing an Indian woman from stomach cancer in 1998 and a Brazilian man from a brain infection in 2008.
The canonisation will also be celebrated in Skopje, the capital of modern Macedonia where Mother Teresa was born of Albanian parents in 1910 and became a nun aged 16.
No major ceremony was planned in Kolkata, where the first MoC mission was set up in 1952, but prayers, talks and cultural events were due to take place in an atmosphere of quiet pride.
Ms Pramod Sharma, a Kolkata resident who grew up near a convent school and childcare centre where Mother Teresa worked, said she had chosen India as her home.
"(She) belonged to our India and stayed with the Indians and will forever stay in our hearts," Ms Sharma said.