Applause erupted in St Peter’s Square as Pope Francis canonised Mother Teresa on Sunday. More than 100,000 pilgrims had gathered for the ceremony, including hundreds of members of the Missionaries of Charity, the order she founded. Also in attendance were 1,500 homeless people from across Italy, who were treated to pizza paid for by Francis through the papal almoner. The canonisation followed the healing of a Brazilian man who had suffered several brain tumours.
What the British media are saying
The British coverage was poor. The Monday edition of the Times did not cover the canonisation at all. The Daily Mail led with a British pop star singing at a papal basilica the evening before. Its headline read: “So demure … Rita Ora covers up and sings for St Teresa.” The Guardian carried the story on page 3, with the headline: “No room for controversy as crowds see Mother Teresa made into a saint”.
The paper’s website ran a piece by Mari Marcel Thekaekara, an Indian writer who helped the Missionaries of Charity as a child but, as a Marxist, grew to loathe Mother Teresa. In the end, though, she realised she had been wrong. “I cannot in conscience criticise a woman who picked people off filthy pavements to allow them to die in dignity. To my knowledge, there’s still no one else doing that,” she wrote.
What the vaticanisti are saying
Sister Theresa Aletheia Noble, writing at aleteia.org, offered ways to respond to atheist criticisms of the saint. One was that she “mismanaged money”.
In fact, Mother Teresa donated surplus money to be dispersed among the poor. Another was that conditions in the homes were deplorable. This “betrays how completely they misunderstand the Missionaries of Charity. The Sisters join the poverty of the people they serve.”
At Crux, meanwhile, John Allen said the canonisation did not benefit St Teresa – who is already in heaven – but rather those who remained on earth. He wrote: “Real power erupts in Catholicism when love and will collide, and perhaps no one better made that point than a diminutive nun from Albania who today is the Church’s newest saint.”
The most overlooked story of the week
✣Pope merges four Vatican councils into one
The Pope announced the merger of four Vatican departments to create the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development. The four areas merged are justice and peace, healthcare ministry, migrants and travellers and Cor Unum.
Cardinal Peter Turkson will serve as prefect of the new office, which will begin functioning on January 1.
Why was it under-reported?
The mainstream press is rarely interested in Vatican reform unless it touches on a hot-button topic. In this case, it is unclear what the implications are. Ed Condon, writing at CatholicHerald.co.uk, said: “It could be that civil servants working in the new department will notice that little changes apart from the sign on the door.”
In terms of Vatican structure, it is a major reform. One feature is unprecedented: the dicastery’s statutes say that the section on refugees and migrants will be led directly by the Pope.
What will happen next?
Condon notes that the portfolio is “easily the most political of any curial section, and its work is likely to attract more than its fair share of attention”, especially as Cardinal Turkson is unafraid of wading into deep political waters. (His 2011 document on financial reform called for the creation of a global bank.)
Rocco Palmo, at his blog Whispers in the Loggia, suggested the dicastery would lead to a bigger lay presence at the Vatican, as its statutes state explicitly that deputies “may also be lay people”.
✣The week ahead
The relics of Reformation martyr St Ambrose Barlow will be venerated at Salford Cathedral at noon tomorrow. The veneration will follow a Mass to mark the saint’s feast day. The skull of St Ambrose is kept at the top of the main staircase in Wardley Hall, the residence of the Bishop of Salford. St Ambrose, a Benedictine monk, was hanged, drawn and quartered in 1641.
A Bridgettine Day to mark the canonisation of Mother Elisabeth Hesselblad, organised by the Association of Catholic Women, will take place on Monday at the Bridgettine Guest House in Iver, Buckinghamshire.
The council of cardinals will meet at the Vatican from Monday to Wednesday. The nine-member council, will reflect on reforms intended to give more power to bishops’ conferences and is expected to help revise Pastor Bonus, the apostolic constitution
governing the Curia. Council members include Cardinal Seán O’Malley and Cardinal George Pell.