How saintly was Mother Teresa?
Pope Francis canonized Mother Teresa on St. Peter's Square in Rome on Sunday, honouring the nun's services to the poor of the world 19 years after her death. While some commentators see Mother Teresa as a model for humanity, others point to the dark side of her life's work.
An extraordinary personality
Foreign correspondent Jerzy Haszczyński describes why Mother Teresa exerted such global appeal in the daily paper Rzeczpospolita:
“Mother Teresa was one of the most memorable Church figures of the 20th century. A reputable German newspaper once even called her a Catholic pop star. And she wasn't just well known among Christians - especially after she won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979. … I had the opportunity to observe what an extraordinary person she was during her visit to Warsaw in 1993. She was handing out medallions to seriously ill patients and invalids in a church. I was accompanied by a photojournalist who wasn't really religious and hadn't shown any emotions up to that point. Suddenly he jumped up, forgetting all about taking photos, and showed his devotion in the hope of receiving one of the medallions.”
Give credit where credit is due
Those who criticise Mother Teresa's canonisation fail to recognise what she achieved, the daily newspaper Večernji list comments:
“Saints were once sinners too - starting with Peter, who denied Jesus three times. Whenever someone is canonised or given the Nobel Peace Prize there are those who doubt their saintliness. … This seems to be normal, particularly when it comes to people who lived in our times. … Before Mother Teresa began helping them the poorest people lived on the street, cast out by society. No one even knew about them, never mind helped them. It was thanks to Mother Teresa that we heard about these people. Naturally, the facilities where she took care of these people were not world-class hospitals. But nor were they Nazi concentration camps, as a journalist claimed in British author Christopher Hitchens' 1994 documentary Hell's Angels.”
Celebrity with a dark side
Mother Teresa was not the super-saint the Vatican is trying to portray her as in order to raise its own profile, columnist Douglas Robertson objects in the Independent:
“Mother Teresa was a celebrity, with a very well-managed brand. Ask most people what they think about Mother Teresa and they’ll say something vague about what a 'good person' she was, how benevolent, self-sacrificing and generally lovely. ... The Church, in 'honouring' her in this way, is ensuring the longevity of a brand that continues not only to raise the profile of their mission and messages, but surely raises considerable capital into the bargain. The question is: was a woman who preached virtue in suffering rather than trying to alleviate it and took money from dictators really that saintly at all.”