Pope Francis formally declared Mother Teresa, the nun who earned worldwide fame for helping the poorest of the poor, a saint on Sunday in front of thousands of people during morning Mass at St. Peter's Square.
Sunday's canonization coincides with Francis' Holy Year of Mercy, which emphasizes the Catholic Church's merciful side. The Vatican was under tight security throughout the weekend as thousands flocked to get a good viewing spot of Mass.
Born as Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu? to Albanian parents in 1910, Mother Teresa came to India in 1929 as a sister of the Loreto order. In 1950, she founded the Missionaries of Charity order, which has since opened more than 130 houses worldwide to provide care for the needy. She was later awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979.
After spending most of her lifetime caring for the destitute and homeless poor in Kolkata, Mother Theresa died in 1997. At the time of her death, Missionaries of Charity supported 4,000 nuns and ran hundreds of orphanages, soup kitchens, homeless shelters and clinics around the world.
Without dispensation from the pope, five years must pass from the time of the candidate’s death before an examination for sainthood can begin. Once deemed worthy by the Vatican, the candidate is called a “Servant of God.” In Mother Teresa's case, the examination began almost immediately after her death.
John Paul II beatified Mother Teresa in 2003 after a first miracle was attributed to her: answering an Indian woman's prayers to cure her brain tumor, according to the Vatican. Beatification requires one miracle, described by the Catholic Church as recognition of a person's entrance into heaven. Sainthood requires two.
Francis officially cleared Mother Teresa for the honor last December, recognizing her "miraculous healing" of a Brazilian man with multiple brain abscesses.
Francis, who has made outreach to the poor a priority for the Catholic Church, met Mother Teresa more than two decades ago, while he was Archbishop Jorge Mario Bergoglio in Argentina. He is known for admiring her ministry as well as her fearlessness in speaking out on behalf of society’s outcasts.
“I think most of all we are thankful to her (Mother Teresa) for the message, for really changing our lives with her example, humility, being close to the poorest of the poor,” Simone Massara was quoted as saying by the Associated Press as he prayed with his wife at the Basilica of Sant’Andrea della Valle.
While Mother Teresa's actions gained widespread admiration in her lifetime, she wasn't beloved by all — she was criticized for the quality of care in her clinics and for taking donations from Haitian dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier and disgraced American financier Charles Keating.
Ceremonies around the world were expected to take place to recognize Mother Teresa’s sainthood. A special Mass in Kolkata and ceremonies in Macedonia through Albania were planned to honor the nun’s canonization on Sunday.