Saints, miracles and Mother Teresa
Vatican City: For many of the poor and destitute whom Mother Teresa served, the tiny nun was a living saint. Many at the Vatican would agree, but the Catholic Church nevertheless has a grueling process to make it official, involving volumes of historical research, the hunt for miracles and teams of experts to weigh the evidence.
In Mother Teresa’s case, the process will come to a formal end on Sunday when Pope Francis declares the church’s newest saint. The process to find a new saint usually begins in the diocese where he or she lived or died; in Mother Teresa’s case, Kolkata.
A postulator - essentially the cheerleader spearheading the project - gathers testimony and documentation and presents the case to the Vatican’s Congregation for the Causes of Saints. If the congregation’s experts agree the candidate lived a virtuous life, the case is forwarded to the pope, who signs a decree attesting to the candidate’s “heroic virtues.”
The saint-making process has long been criticized as being expensive, secretive, ripe for abuses and subject to political, financial or theological winds that can push one candidate to sainthood in record time and leave another languishing for centuries.
Pope Francis has raised eyebrows with some rule-breaking beatifications and canonizations, waiving the need for miracles and canonizing more people in a single clip - more than 800 15th-century martyrs - than John Paul did in his 26-year pontificate (482).
Francis has also imposed new financial accountability standards on the multimillion-dollar machine after uncovering gross abuses that were subsequently revealed in two books. For the record, the postulator of Mother Teresa’s cause says her case, which stretched over 20 years, cost less than