A tapestry depicting Mother Teresa of Calcutta hangs from St Peter’s Basilica during her beatification ceremony
By Patricia Zapor
A crowd of 300,000 people gathered from around the world, from places as far apart as New Zealand and New Delhi, Argentina and Australia, the Philippines and Philadelphia, crowding St Peter’s Square and the surrounding streets to celebrate the beatification of Mother Teresa of Calcutta.
The global work of the founder of the Missionaries of Charity was reflected in the range of nations represented in the congregation. Even more striking was how many of those 300,000 people felt a personal connection to the tiny nun who died six years ago.
“For any Christian, this is an important day,” said Fr Joselee Cyrakkove of Kerala, India.
“For Indians it is very special. She had Albanian blood, Italian citizenship and worked in India, but she was a figure for the whole world.
“Her secret was that she understood the message of Christ, which is to love Christ and find Christ in the poor.”
Patrick and Kiran Baretto flew from New Delhi to stand in the square holding a large banner that read: “Mother Teresa of Calcutta, you set ablaze a path for humanity to Christ. From your loving children, Rochelle, Amaryllis, Gabriella, Chrisyllis, Kiran and Patrick Baretto.”
Tears welled in Patrick’s eyes as he explained his connection to Mother Teresa.
“Whatever I ask for in life, she has given me – in my family, in my business,” he said. “I have four daughters; good, loving, healthy, smiling children. She has kept us together as a healthy, loving family.”
Patrick, a member of the International Association of Co-Workers of Mother Teresa, said he had met Mother Teresa a few times. His most lasting impression of her is her plea for people to “just look after my children. And she didn’t mean my own children, she meant all the children in the world”.
Carmen Viegelmann of Auckland, New Zealand, said she was most struck by Mother Teresa’s love for the poor, “which I am trying to emulate. I don’t know how, but I’m trying”.
Michael Emmanuel Robinson decided the day before the beatification to fly to Rome from his Chicago home. As an American Airlines employee, it was relatively easy for him, he said.
Wearing elaborate African dress, he arrived straight from the airport and full of enthusiasm, despite the fact that he lacked a ticket for admission to the square.
Robinson volunteers at a Missionaries of Charity shelter in Chicago, where he said sisters of Mother Teresa’s order inspire him. Going to Rome, he said, was a decision to “step out in faith”.
The bright, sunny day was seen by many people as an example of Mother Teresa watching out for her children.
Heavy rain fell the night before, and forecasters had called for more. Instead, umbrellas were used for sunshades, and rain coats became cushions for hundreds of thousands of people without chairs to sit on the cobblestones during the Mass readings and the Pope’s homily.