Mother Teresa of Calcutta, known as the “saint of the gutters” during her life, has been declared a saint of the Roman Catholic Church by Pope Francis.
The declaration took place on Sunday, 19 years after her death.
Tens of thousands of pilgrims packed St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican for a service to honour the tiny nun, who worked among the world’s neediest in the slums of the Indian city now called Kolkata.
A Nobel peace laureate, her legacy complements Pope Francis’s vision of a humble church that strives to serve the poor.
Standing under a canvas hung from St. Peter’s Basilica showing the late nun in her blue-hemmed white robes, Francis said Mother Teresa was a “dispenser of divine mercy”.
Pope Francis, however, held world powers to account “for the crimes of poverty they created”.
“For Mother Teresa, mercy was the salt which gave flavour to her work, the light which shone in the darkness of the many who no longer had tears to shed for their poverty and suffering,” Pope Francis said.
No fewer than 120,000 people attended the ceremony to celebrate the life of a woman who Francis said it might be difficult to call “Saint” as people felt so close to her they spontaneously used “Mother”.
Critics say she did little to alleviate the pain of the terminally ill and nothing to tackle the root causes of poverty.
Atheist writer, Christopher Hitchens, made a documentary about her called “Hell’s Angel”.
She was also accused of trying to convert the destitute in predominantly-Hindu India to Christianity, a charge her mission repeatedly denied.
But Pope John Paul II, who met her often, had no doubt about her eligibility for sainthood which made him put her on the route to canonisation two years after her death instead of the usual five.