Mother Theresa of Calcutta became Saint Theresa yesterday in a small ceremony in the Vatican. Saint Theresa, who passed through Rochdale on her way to Dublin in 1928, will be remembered by millions of Catholics worldwide as a missionary who brought the word of god to the slums of Calcutta.
On the other hand she will be remembered by millions of Hindus as the white woman who looked down on them and made every effort to destroy their faith.
Theresa, who was born in Albania in 1910 and moved to Dublin in 1928 to become a nun, didn’t mix with the poor when she first took her mission to India in 1929 but instead taught at an all-girls high school attended exclusively by children of the rich ruling classes.
In 1946, she felt a calling to move her mission to the slums of Calcutta where she helped to tackle rampant overcrowding and desperate poverty by taking a pro-life, anti-abortion, anti-contraception, anti-divorce stance which she maintained until her death in 1997.
Saint Theresa’s ministries to the sick and dying were described in 1991 by The Lancet as “haphazard”, and in 2013 a group of academics from Université de Montréal concluded that Theresa’s care for the sick “glorified their suffering instead of relieving it”.
She did, however, recieve much praise from the Western world for her work with the heathen, receiving the Pacem in Terris award from the Pope in 1976, the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979, the Presidential Medal of Freedom from Ronald Reagan in 1983 and the Haitian Legion D’Honneur from personal friend and Fascist Dictator Papa Doc Duvalier in 1981.
Theresa also counted among her friends: Enver Hoxha of Communist Albania, the British publisher Robert Maxwell (who embezzled £450 million), and Licio Gelli, an Italian politican aligned with neo-fascists.
Saint Theresa’s canonization this morning has cemented her place in history as the saint of the gutters.
President of the United States, Ronald Reagan, said in 1985 that “Most of us talk about kindness and compassion, but Mother Teresa lives it” whilst Indian historian Vijay Prashad refered to her as “the quintessential image of the white woman in the colonies, working to save the dark bodies from their own temptations and failures.”
Just goes to show that even saints can’t please all the people all the time.