Pope Francis has declared Mother Teresa a saint, honoring the tiny nun who cared for the world’s most destitute and holding her up as a model for a Catholic Church that goes to the peripheries to find poor, wounded souls. Applause erupted in St. Peter’s Square even before Francis finished pronouncing the rite of canonization at the start of Mass, evidence of the admiration Mother Teresa enjoyed from Christians and non-Christians alike. For Francis, Mother Teresa put into action his ideal of the church as a merciful “field hospital” for the poorest of the poor, those suffering both material and spiritual poverty. By canonizing her during his Jubilee Year of Mercy, he in some ways is making her the icon of his entire pontificate. Hundreds of Missionaries of Charity sisters in their trademark blue-trimmed saris had front-row seats at the Mass, sitting under a searing hot sun and blue skies alongside 1,500 homeless people and 13 heads of state or government, including Queen Sofia of Spain.
Let the example of Mother Teresa inspire all of us to dedicate ourselves to the welfare of mankind.
Indian President Pranab Mukherjee
While big, the crowds were not as large as the 300,000 who turned out for Mother Teresa’s 2003 beatification, thanks in part to security fears in the wake of Islamic extremist attacks in Europe. Those fears prompted a huge, 3,000-strong law enforcement presence to secure the area around the Vatican and close the airspace above. Nevertheless, those on hand were jubilant to have made the journey — nuns, priests, volunteers, pilgrims and tourists clutching the coveted 100,000 tickets issued for the Mass. One group of 40 Indian nationals traveled from Macerata, Italy to honor a woman given India’s highest civilian and humanitarian awards for her work in the slums of Kolkata. Another group of 100 drove from Kosovo toting a banner that read: “Mother Teresa: Pray for Us.”