Roman Catholic prepares to declare Mother Teresa a saint

By Isla Binnie. ROME (Reuters) – As the Roman Catholic Church prepares to declare Mother Teresa of Calcutta officially a saint, the man the Church believes she miraculously intervened to rescue from the brink of death says he does not think she chose him specifically.

Mother Teresa attends to a patient in her home for the dying in Calcutta's teeming slum on February 2, 1986 hours before the arrival of Pope John Paul for a meeting between them which will be a highlight of the papal visit. REUTERS/S. Akatsuka
Mother Teresa attends to a patient in her home for the dying in Calcutta’s teeming slum on February 2, 1986 hours before the arrival of Pope John Paul for a meeting between them which will be a highlight of the papal visit. REUTERS/S. Akatsuka

Mother Teresa, a Nobel Peace Prize winner affectionately known during her lifetime as the “saint of the gutters” for her work among the poor of India and who died in 1997, is due to be officially canonised by Pope Francis on Sunday at a ceremony likely to bring more than 100,000 people to St. Peter’s Square.

The Church opened the way for Mother Teresa’s canonisation last year after declaring the recovery of Brazilian Marcilio Haddad Andrino from a life-threatening brain infection a miracle.

Andrino, who is 43 and lives in Rio de Janeiro, told a news conference at the Vatican on Friday he felt very grateful but thought anybody else could equally have benefited from her intervention.

“If it hadn’t happened to me maybe there would be someone else tomorrow. She did not distinguish. I don’t feel special,” said Andrino, who was due to attend Sunday’s ceremony with his wife Fernanda will attend Sunday’s canonisation ceremony.

When Andrino was afflicted by brain abscesses and hydrocephalus from which doctors feared he would not recover in 2008, the couple prayed to Mother Teresa, who became famous for her work in the slums of the Indian city now known as Kolkata.

He said his condition deteriorated to the point that he struggled to walk down the aisle at his wedding in September 2008 and by early December he was unconscious in hospital.

Andrino was scheduled for brain surgery, but when he suddenly awoke shortly before the allocated surgery time without the headache that had been tormenting him, the doctor told him the intervention would not be necessary.

“I was able to spend Christmas with my family and six months later I went back to work with no problems,” Andrino said, adding that he and Fernanda later surprised the medics by having two children.

FAST TRACK

The Roman Catholic Church has more than 10,000 saints, many of whom were not elevated until centuries after their deaths.

The case for canonisation is usually initiated five years after the candidate’s death, but Pope John Paul II waived this for Teresa, putting her on a fast track to sainthood.

In 2002, the Vatican ruled that prayers to Mother Teresa had brought about an Indian woman’s miraculous cure from stomach cancer, providing the first of the two miracles Catholic doctrine requires before conferring sainthood.

Born Agnese Gonxha Bojaxhiu of Albanian parents in 1910 in what is now Macedonia, she became a nun aged 16 and moved to India in 1929, creating her first mission in 1950.

Catholics revered Mother Teresa for bringing relief to the sick and dying through chapters of her Missionaries of Charity (MoC) order, whose sisters wear distinctive blue-trimmed white robes, established around the world.

However, critics say she did little to alleviate the pain of the terminally ill and nothing to tackle the root causes of poverty.

She was also accused of trying to convert the destitute in predominantly Hindu India to Christianity, a charge her order has repeatedly denied.

(Reporting By Isla Binnie; Editing by Gareth Jones)

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