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Kolkata turns 'City of Joy' as Mother Teresa officially becomes a saint

Sulagna Sengupta | Updated on: 5 September 2016, 13:22 IST

Over 7,000 miles separate the Vatican and Kolkata. But on Sunday, 4 September, both historic cities resonated with joy, as Mother Teresa was officially declared 'Saint Teresa of Calcutta' by Pope Francis at the seat of Catholicism.

The Mother House in Kolkata virtually turned into a miniature version of the Vatican, with thousands of people thronging in from various parts of the country and abroad to take part in the grand ceremony on the occasion of the canonisation.

Visitors from abroad thronged Mother House, stating that there was no better place to pay tribute to the blessed soul, who had passed away in 1997.

On the other hand, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and her fellow delegates walked to the Vatican from another part of Rome, singing the song "Aguner parash moni".

Over 100,000 pilgrims attended the canonisation of Mother Teresa in the Vatican. (AFP photo/Vincenzo Pinto)

Followers congregate from around the world

People started gathering at the headquarters of the Missionaries of Charity in Kolkata early on Sunday morning. They congregated around Mother's tomb, which was decorated with a single lighted candle and flowers. People prayed before the tomb, and also before a photograph, which was also decorated beautifully, and captioned: "Saint Teresa of Calcutta, pray for us".

As Pope Francis declared Mother a saint, people clapped with joy. The nuns of the Missionaries of Charity sang in unison as they saw the canonisation on the giant screens which had been put up inside the Mother House on AJC Bose Road.

A giant TV screen had also been erected outside the Mother House, so that visitors could watch the ceremony.

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Ruby Begum, a 70-year-old woman from nearby Park Street, walks to the Mother House every day to pray in front of her statue. Tears flow from her eyes as she prays to the Mother for half an hour.

A garlanded statue of Mother Teresa at Mother House in Kolkata. (AFP photo/Dibyangshu Sarkar)

Begum makes no bones about the fact that she was sickly and dying at one time, but her constant prayers to Mother have made her hale and hearty today.

"I am alive today because of Mother. She picked me up from the gutters to make me a human," said Begum, who lives with her children and relatives in Kolkata.

But Mother's influence went far beyond the geographical bounds of city, state and country.

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Among the gathering at Mother House were two Taiwanese students - Yan Chi Lien and Shun Li. Yan told Catch: "We feel proud that we could participate in such a special moment, and I am happy to watch the canonisation program with the Missionaries of Charity. We visited the city only because Mother Teresa belonged to Kolkata, and she had been declared a saint."

Miratun Sheikh, who travelled all the way from Indonesia, where he works in a private company, says: "We feel proud to be present on this grand occasion. It was a great atmosphere here in Kolkata. We want to take lesson from the preaching of Mother Teresa who had spoken for peace and love."

Mother's legacy

Her official canonised name bears testament to Mother's Kolkata connection. The slums and alleys of the city once called Calcutta were what attracted Mother to begin her life's mission - to serve the wretched, the unloved, the uncared for, and the dying. Her simple philosophy of life - work, care and love - has enthralled thousands of nuns, who have been carrying on her work since her demise 19 years ago.

Pope Francis himself said of Mother in his speech: "She bowed down before those who were spent, left to die on the side of the road, seeing in them their God-given dignity; she made her voice heard before the powers of this world, so that they might recognise their guilt for the crime of poverty they created. For Mother Teresa, mercy was the 'salt' which gave flavour to her work, it was the 'light' which shone in the darkness of the many who no longer had tears to shed for their poverty and suffering."

Pope Francis canonises Mother Teresa at the Vatican. (AFP photo/Andreas Solaro)

It is clear that her life reflects the kind of Church that Pope Francis himself is trying to build - one that shows mercy to all and offers practical help to the poorest and all those in need.

Significantly, after the canonisation programme at the Vatican was completed, Banerjee recollected the time when she was just starting out as a political worker, and the influence Mother had on her.

"I met Mother Teresa twice, and it was really a great moment to see how she worked for the poor and the destitute. It's really a proud moment for Bengal too that Mother has been declared a saint," the West Bengal CM said.

The woman who helped make her a saint

When Monica Besra, a 50-year-old tribal woman from Uttar Dinajpur district in West Bengal, reported that she had been miraculously cured after praying to Mother Teresa in 1998, little did she know that her report would help pave the path for the nun's canonisation.

On 4 September 1998, a day before Mother's first death anniversary, the Sisters from the Missionaries of Charity took Besra to the church to pray. "There was a photograph of Mother Teresa there. When I entered the church, a blinding light from Mother's photo enveloped me. I didn't know what was happening and returned to my bed at the centre as I was too ill," she said.

Read her full story here.

Edited by Shreyas Sharma

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First published: 5 September 2016, 13:22 IST
 
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