© 2024 WYPR
WYPR 88.1 FM Baltimore WYPF 88.1 FM Frederick WYPO 106.9 FM Ocean City
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Pope Francis Canonizes Mother Teresa In Vatican Ceremony


Bells and celebrating as a mass today at the Vatican made it official - Mother Teresa, the nun who in the last century dedicated her long life to helping the poor, is now a saint. Reporter Christopher Livesay was there and joins us now from Rome. Chris, first of all, just describe what must have been an amazing scene for us.

CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY, BYLINE: People were from all over the world. They were standing elbow to elbow in a packed St. Peter's Square. And those most visible were waving flags from India, where Mother Teresa devoted so much of her ministry. I caught up with a delegation from West Bengal as they were singing a song.

UNIDENTIFIED MEN: (Singing in foreign language).

LIVESAY: That was Mother Teresa's favorite Bengali song. They played it at her funeral in 1997. Almost everyone I spoke to commented not just on Mother Teresa's work with the poor, but also how that dovetails with the person who is proclaiming her a saint today - Pope Francis. He's championed the poor since he became pope in 2013.

MARTIN: And it's not just good people who become saints. It's a complicated process, right?

LIVESAY: It is. A short answer to that process is basically you have to live a life that the Catholic Church would consider exemplary. But the long answer is really, really long. Canon law lists 150 articles for becoming a saint. But one of the most important requirements is to perform at least two miracles that the Vatican can verify. The beneficiary of one such miracle is Marcilio Haddad Andrino from Brazil. He spoke here at the Vatican this weekend. He said he was suffering from a fatal brain infection, but thanks to his wife's prayers to Mother Teresa he was miraculously healed.

MARTIN: Mother Teresa, though, did have some critics, right?

LIVESAY: She did indeed. Some disagreed with her outspoken opposition to birth control and abortion. Here she is accepting the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979.


MOTHER TERESA: If a mother can murder her own child in her own womb, what is left for you and for me? To kill each other.

LIVESAY: Now, that's the Catholic Church's own policy, so no surprise critics of the church might disapprove of Mother Teresa on this point. But then there was also the company she kept. For instance, she took money from Charles Keating, the man behind the infamous savings and loan scandal of the late 1980s. She even spoke as a character witness during his trial. Another unsavory character in her circle was Jean-Claude Baby Doc Duvalier, the dictator of Haiti in the '70s and '80s. She accepted the country's Legion of Honor from him. And some critics say she simply didn't do a very good job taking care of the poor. They cite unhygenic conditions at her facilities where needles were routinely swapped without being sterilized.

MARTIN: So she wasn't perfect.

LIVESAY: She was flawed. But you don't have to be perfect to become a saint. In fact, Pope Francis himself said at the mass today that she deserved it.

MARTIN: Reporter Chris Livesay in Rome. Thanks so much, Chris.

LIVESAY: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.