By Joe Nickell
With the requisite two “miracles” approved, Mother Teresa was canonized on Sunday, September 4, 2016. But is she Mother Teresa of Kolkata (formerly Calcutta) transformed into a saint—that is, a holy person imbued by God with miraculous powers—or is she only a pretend saint, created by popular demand?
Around the world, the Catholic faithful clamor for their beloved late priest, nun, or other personage to be added to the roster of saints. Pope John Paul II (1920–2005) heard them and lowered the requirement from three verified miracles to two (one for beatification, another for canonization), creating numerous saints and beatifying over 1,300 others—more than had all his predecessors together. Following complaints that the church was operating a “saint factory,” in 2008 somewhat stricter procedures were introduced, but then John Paul II too was canonized (Nickell 2015).
A Questionable Saint
The name of Mother Teresa (1910–1997) is known worldwide. Born Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu in Macedonia, she became a nun, taught at a girls’ school in India, and in time founded a new congregation, the Missionaries of Charity, which spread internationally. Her work—ostensibly to benefit the poor—won her the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979.
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