December 27, 2002

Pope recognizes miracle needed to beatify Mother Teresa

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY — Pope John Paul II and top Vatican officials formally recognized the miracle needed for the beatification of Mother Teresa of Calcutta.

Sister Nirmala Joshi, Mother Teresa’s successor as superior of the Missionaries of Charity, and Father Brian Kolodiejchuk, postulator of her cause, said the beatification ceremony would take place at the Vatican Oct. 19, Mission Sunday, “the closest Sunday to the 25th anniversary of the Holy Father’s pontificate and the end of the Year of the Rosary.”

The miracle attributed to the intercession of the Macedonia-born founder of the Missionaries of Charity was recognized formally Dec. 20 during a ceremony attended by Pope John Paul and members of the Congregation for Saints’ Causes.

Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins, addressing the pope at the beginning of the meeting, said, “In Calcutta, she discovered the face of the suffering Christ in the faces of the most abandoned poor.

“With her example, she gave rise to a vast movement of charitable and social commitment on behalf of the most marginalized,” the cardinal said.

“She enjoys a solid fame of holiness on a worldwide level,” he said.

The process leading up to Mother Teresa’s beatification was the shortest in modern history.

In fact, the usual formal first step in the process, a “decree of heroic virtues,” which recognizes a person lived the Christian virtues in a heroic way, was issued only minutes before the decree recognizing the miracle.

The sari-clad nun, known for her care of the sick and dying, died in September 1997. In early 1999, Pope John Paul waived the normal five-year waiting period and allowed the immediate opening of her canonization cause.

A Dec. 20 statement from the Missionaries of Charity said, “Mother is a symbol of love and compassion.

“Her life of loving service to the poor has inspired many to follow the same path. Her witness and message are cherished by those of every religion as a sign that ‘God still loves the world today,’” the statement said.

The members of her order said that since her death, “people have sought her help and have experienced God’s love for them through her prayers. Every day, pilgrims from India and around the world come to pray at her tomb, and many more follow her example of humble service of love to the most needy, beginning in their own families.”

The healing recognized as a miracle occurred on the first anniversary of Mother Teresa’s death. After the beatification ceremony, another miracle will be required for her canonization.

The beatification miracle, accepted Oct. 1 by the cardinals and bishops who are members of the Congregation for Saints’ Causes, was the object of some controversy in mid-October.

Monica Besra had undergone treatment in India for tuberculosis a few months before a tumor began growing in her abdomen.

When the tumor disappeared, Besra was not in the hospital, but at a home run by the Missionaries of Charity in India’s West Bengal state.

The woman was in such pain from the pressure of the tumor that she could not sleep. The nuns set a Marian medallion that had been touched to the body of Mother Teresa on Besra’s stomach, and she slept. When she awoke, the tumor had disappeared.

Besra, a 34-year-old mother of five, believes her healing was a miracle attributable to prayers for the intercession of Mother Teresa; her husband, as well as the leader of India’s Science and Rationalists Association and the director of the hospital where Basra initially was treated, claim the healing was a result of medical care.

In their investigation of the healing, Vatican medical consultants examined the woman’s medical records and concluded there was no medical explanation for the disappearance of the tumor.

Sources said the consultants specifically considered whether medication used for treating her tuberculosis could have caused the tumor to disappear, and they concluded it could not.

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