Mother Teresa borne to sainthood by complex, mysterious process

Sun Sep 4, 2016 8:10am EDT
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(Story repeats, adding reference to Sunday's canonization.)

By Philip Pullella

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - The canonization of Mother Teresa of Calcutta marked the culmination of a process - sometimes called "the saint-making machine" - that is long, complex, expensive, opaque and often contentious.

The Catholic Church posthumously confers sainthood on people considered so holy during their lives that they are now believed to be with God and can intercede with him to perform miracles.

Such is the status of the nun acclaimed for her work in the slums of the Indian city now known as Kolkata, who Pope Francis on Sunday declared a saint in front of an estimated 120,000 pilgrims.

But the path to sainthood is often more bureaucratic than beatific.

Mother Teresa died in 1997 and the late Pope John Paul, who met her often, bent Vatican rules to grant a dispensation allowing the procedure to establish her case for sainthood to be launched two years after her death instead of the usual five.

He had even considered making her a saint immediately but cardinals convinced him that it would set a dangerous precedent for the future, even though in the early Church people were acclaimed saints upon their death.

The current process, known as a "cause", begins at the local level when a diocese believes that someone in their community lived a saintly life. When it is formally open, he or she get the title "Servant of God."   Continued...

A tapestry picturing Mother Teresa hangs from the central balcony of St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, September 1, 2016. REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini