Date of birth : 1910-08-26
Date of death : 1997-09-05
Birthplace : Skopje, Macedonia
Nationality : Indian
Category : Famous Figures
Last modified : 2010-05-24
Mother Teresa (26 August 1910 – 5 September 1997), born Agnesë Gonxhe Bojaxhiu was an Albanian Catholic nun with Indian citizenship who founded the Missionaries of Charity in Kolkata (Calcutta), India in 1950. For over 45 years she ministered to the poor, sick, orphaned, and dying, while guiding the Missionaries of Charity's expansion, first throughout India and then in other countries. Following her death she was beatified by Pope John Paul II and given the title Blessed Teresa of Calcutta.
By the 1970s, she was internationally famed as a humanitarian and advocate for the poor and helpless, due in part to a documentary and book Something Beautiful for God by Malcolm Muggeridge. She won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979 and India's highest civilian honour, the Bharat Ratna, in 1980 for her humanitarian work. Mother Teresa's Missionaries of Charity continued to expand, and at the time of her death it was operating 610 missions in 123 countries, including hospices and homes for people with HIV/AIDS, leprosy and tuberculosis, soup kitchens, children's and family counselling programs, orphanages, and schools.
Living her life for the betterment of the conditions of the poor, diseased, and neglected, Mother Teresa has been beatified in the Catholic church for her role in helping millions of people worldwide in over 120 countries. Many look to her for guidance in their own lives and her candor, giving, and peaceful spirit led her to win the rightly deserved Nobel Peace Prize.
In her early ears, the Blessed Teresa, as she is called by those of the Catholic Faith, helped the poverty stricken in Calcutta, India. She alone brought awareness and funding through the Catholic Church that would work to help and comfort the most needy. With the founding of her own organization, called the Missionaries of Charity, which was deemed necessary and appropriate by the Vatican, her organization would expand worldwide, now run by over 3,500 nurses and hundreds of thousands of volunteers.
Upon the formation of the Missionaries of Charity, she opened up an orphanage and an escape for lepers called the City of Peace. By the mid 1960s, she would be the sole overseer of several branches of her organizations across the great sub-continent of India. By the latter 1960s, she wished to spread what had been working so well in India to the rest of the world. First, she thought about what countries needed the most attention. She looked to Asia, then to South America, and expanded into parts of Eastern Europe.
Pope John Paul II has spoken about Mother Teresa in several addresses stating her inspiration, will, and strength at attempting to save the entire world through her prayers and dedication to the church. Mother Teresa was an admirer of a sect known as the Franciscan Order. Saint Francis of Assisi inspired Mother Teresa to live a life dedicated to helping the helpless, to lead a life of poverty, and to dedicate service to the betterment of mankind.
In 1971, she was awarded the Pope John Peace Prize and the Kennedy Prize. In 1979, she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. In 1985, she was awarded the United States Presidential Medal of Freedom, and the Congressional Gold Medal in 1994. She passed away at the age of 84 in her home in India and was given a burial ceremony that is usually reserved for the prime minister.
"Miracle" and beatification
Following Mother Teresa's death in 1997, the Holy See began the process of beatification, the third step toward possible canonization. This process requires the documentation of a miracle performed from the intercession of Mother Teresa.
In 2002, the Vatican recognized as a miracle the healing of a tumor in the abdomen of an Indian woman, Monica Besra, following the application of a locket containing Mother Teresa's picture. Besra said that a beam of light emanated from the picture, curing the cancerous tumor. Critics — including some of Besra's medical staff and, initially, Besra's husband — insisted that conventional medical treatment eradicated the tumor. Dr. Ranjan Mustafi, who told the New York Times he had treated Besra, said that the cyst was not cancer at all but a cyst caused by tuberculosis. He insisted, "It was not a miracle…. She took medicines for nine months to one year."
An opposing perspective of the claim is that Besra's medical records contain sonograms, prescriptions, and physicians' notes that could conceivably prove whether the cure was a miracle or not. Besra has claimed Sister Betta of the Missionaries of Charity is holding them. The publication has received a "no comments" statement from Sister Betta. The officials at the Balurghat Hospital where Besra was seeking medical treatment are claiming that they are being pressured by the Catholic order to declare the cure as a miracle.
Christopher Hitchens was the only witness called by the Vatican to give evidence against Mother Teresa's beatification and canonization process, as the Vatican had abolished the traditional "devil's advocate" role, which fulfilled a similar purpose. Hitchens has argued that "her intention was not to help people," and he alleged that she lied to donors about the use of their contributions. “It was by talking to her that I discovered, and she assured me, that she wasn't working to alleviate poverty,” says Hitchens. “She was working to expand the number of Catholics. She said, ‘I'm not a social worker. I don't do it for this reason. I do it for Christ. I do it for the church.’
In the process of examining Teresa's suitability for beatification and canonization, the Roman Curia (the Vatican) pored over a great deal of documentation of published and unpublished criticisms of her life and work. Vatican officials say Hitchens' allegations have been investigated by the agency charged with such matters, the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, and they found no obstacle to Mother Teresa's beatification. Due to the attacks she has received, some Catholic writers have called her a sign of contradiction. The beatification of Mother Teresa took place on 19 October 2003, thereby bestowing on her the title "Blessed."
A second miracle is required for her to proceed to canonization.
Commemoration of Mother Teresa
Mother Teresa inspired a variety of commemorations. She has been memorialized through museums, been named patroness of various churches, and had various structures and roads named after her. Various tributes have been published in Indian newspapers and magazines authored by her biographer, Navin Chawla.
View the full website biography of Mother Teresa.