Could Mother Teresa Be Canonized During the Holy Year for Mercy?

Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said, 'There is no official date, but you can say that the Congregation for the Causes of Saints is studying the cause.'

Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta
Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta (photo: L’Osservatore Romano)

Editor's Note: This story has been updated since it was posted.

VATICAN CITY — Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi has said that Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta could be canonized during the upcoming Jubilee for Mercy, although he clarified that no concrete plans have been made.

Father Lombardi told CNA May 19 that the possible canonization of Mother Teresa during the holy year is “a working hypothesis.”

“There is no official date, but you can say that the Congregation for the Causes of Saints is studying the cause.” When asked if there was a second miracle attributed to the nun’s intercession, the spokesman said, “The cause is in the process.”

Mother Teresa was born Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu on Aug. 26, 1910, in Skopje, Macedonia. The youngest of three children, she attended a youth group run by a Jesuit priest called Sodality, which eventually opened her to the call of service as a missionary nun.

She joined the Sisters of Loretto at age 18 and was sent to Calcutta, where she taught at a high school. In 1946, at age 34, while on a train from Calcutta to Darjeeling for her annual retreat, Mother Teresa received what she called “a call within a call” from God to leave the convent and live among the poor.

The Vatican granted her permission to leave the Sisters of Loretto and to live her new call under the guidance of the archbishop of Calcutta. After she left her convent, Mother Teresa began working in the slums, teaching poor children and treating the sick in their homes. A year later, some of her former students joined her, and, together, they took in men, women and children who were dying in the gutters along the streets.

In 1950, the Missionaries of Charity were born as a congregation of the Archdiocese of Calcutta. In 1952, the government granted them a house from which to continue their mission of serving Calcutta’s poor and forgotten.

The congregation quickly grew from a single house for the dying and unwanted to nearly 500 houses around the world. Mother Teresa set up homes for prostitutes, battered women, orphanages for poor children and houses for those suffering from HIV/AIDS.

She was a fierce defender of the unborn and is known to have said, “If you hear of some woman who does not want to keep her child and wants to have an abortion, try to persuade her to bring him to me. I will love that child, seeing in him the sign of God’s love.”

She died on Sept. 5, 1997, and was beatified just six years later by St. John Paul II on Oct. 19, 2003.

An Italian cardinal heading one of the Vatican departments, who preferred to remain anonymous, told CNA May 19 that the canonization was brought up during a Monday meeting between Pope Francis and the heads of various departments in the Roman Curia. According to the cardinal, the Vatican’s prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, Cardinal Angelo Amato, suggested Sept. 4, 2016 — which is being observed as a jubilee day for workers and volunteers of mercy — to the others as a possible canonization date, since it is close to Sept. 5, the nun’s feast day and the anniversary of her death.

The possible canonization of Mother Teresa was also brought up during the May 5 presentation of the Jubilee for Mercy. A journalist from the Italian publication Citta Nuova noted the date for the jubilee celebration on the eve of her feast day and asked whether the decision signaled that her canonization could be close.

On that occasion Archbishop Rino Fisichella, president of the Pontifical Council for the New Evangelization, which is organizing the Year for Mercy, responded by saying, “Everyone is waiting for the canonization of Mother Teresa.”

Although no plans are official, the archbishop expressed his desire that all volunteer organizations would find “an opportunity of encounter” in the Sept. 4 jubilee day.

He said, “Who more than Mother Teresa can be recognized today as one who lived the works of mercy? And who more than she could be capable of sustaining the commitment of millions of people — men, women, youth, in various forms of volunteer work — and express the beauty of the mercy of the Church?”