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Pope Francis has declared Mother Teresa of Calcutta, known as the “saint of the gutters” during her lifetime, a saint, just 19 years after her death.
According to Al Jazeera, applause erupted in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican even before Francis finished pronouncing the rite of canonisation at the start of the Mass for the nun on Sunday, with the attendance of tens of thousands of pilgrims.
Pilgrims streamed into the square from early morning ahead of a service to honour the nun and Nobel peace laureate, who worked among the world’s poorest in the slums of the Indian city now known as Kolkata.
“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.
Francis said that even though the nun had been declared a saint, she would always be Mother Teresa to the Catholic family.
Echoing his own vision of a “poor church for the poor”, the pope described Teresa’s work as “eloquent witness to God’s closeness to the poorest of the poor.”
To applause, he added, “Mother Teresa loved to say, ‘perhaps I don’t speak their language but I can smile’.
“Let us carry her smile in our hearts and give it to those who we meet along our journey, especially those who suffer.”
Millions of Catholics revere the nun as a model of compassion, and more than 100,000 people were expected at 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.