VATICAN CITY, Italy, Sept. 4 (UPI) — Under the sunny skies of Vatican City, Pope Francis proclaimed Mother Teresa a saint, recalling her outspoken opposition to abortion and her love for and dedication to the poor.
The pope, on Sunday, celebrated the new saint in a way that would bring together both those who champion the church’s traditional moral teachings and those who lean more toward social justice concerns, the Wall Street Journal reported.
The ceremony took place in St. Peter’s Square amid a crowd of about 120,000. The pope spoke in front of a huge portrait of Mother Teresa, one of the most recognizable faces of the 20th century and someone considered a saint by many long before Sunday, the New York Times reported.
Several flags fluttered over the ceremony: Albania, representing Mother Teresa’s ethnic origin; Macedonia, representing her birthplace; India, the place of most of her good works; and numerous other countries where her works touched many lives.
“We are proud of her. All of India is proud,” said Marina Borneo Sam, who traveled from the slum area of Kolkata with her mother for the ceremony. “She may no longer be there, but we still feel her spirit around us.”
“For me, nothing has changed,” said Giovanna Tommasi, lay member of the Missionaries of Charity, a religious order Mother Teresa founded in 1950. “When you were fortunate enough to know her, as I did, then today’s celebration doesn’t change much.”
Pope Francis called Mother Teresa “a tireless worker of mercy” in a year he has proclaimed as a Jubilee Year to celebrate the theme of mercy. He addressed his homily to volunteers celebrating Jubilee. “Today, I pass the emblematic figure of womanhood and of consecrated life to the whole world of volunteers. May she be your model of holiness.”
He also highlighted Mother Teresa’s outspoken opposition to abortion.
“Mother Teresa, in all aspects of her life, was a generous dispenser of divine mercy, making herself available for everyone through her welcome and defense of human life, those unborn and those abandoned and discarded,” the Pope said. “She was committed to defending life, ceaselessly proclaiming that ‘the unborn are the weakest, the smallest, the most vulnerable.”
She also went after the political leaders that allowed poverty, he said. “She made her voice heard before the powers of this world, so that they might recognize their guilt for the crime of poverty they created.”
Long recognized for her works, Mother Teresa was honored numerous times, including winning the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979. Just 18 months after her death in 1997, Pope John Paul II cut short the five-year waiting period to start the process of canonizing Mother Teresa. He beatified her in 2003, the Catholic church’s highest honor short of sainthood.
Her proclamation as a saint came a day before the 19th anniversary of her passing. Sept. 5 will be her feast day in the Catholic church calendar around the world.