Slumdwellers and admirers from abroad were among the thousands who
poured into the Missionaries of Charity (MoC) headquarters here
Thursday to celebrate Mother Teresa's birth centenary. The Pope, in
a message from the Vatican, said Mother Teresa was "an inestimable
gift" in her lifetime.
Kolkata, the city where the Albania-born nun arrived in 1929, also
marked the birth centenary of the Nobel Peace Prize winner with the
launch of a special train 'Mother Express" and a film festival.
Her birth centenary celebrations began with a two-hour early morning
mass at what is called Mother House in the city, which was the
epicentre of the nun's work among the poor, old, infirm and the
Candles were lit at Mother Teresa's flower-bedecked grave - a
simple, rectangular three-foot high cement tomb on the ground floor
of the two-storeyed building. Pigeons and balloons were also
released in the air.
The mass was led by Cardinal Telesphore Placidus Toppo, the
Archbishop of Ranchi, and was attended by around 60 other priests,
including Archbishop of Kolkata Lucas Sarkar and Bishop of Baruipur
The nuns of MoC, a Catholic Christian order founded by Mother
Teresa, took part in the prayers, draped in their traditional white
saris. About 1,000 people, including many commoners, also joined in
In his address, Toppo said Mother Teresa realised the need to
protect the environment even before the church became aware of its
duty to the ecology. "Her insistence on poverty in life is (also) a
fine illustration of this," he said.
MoC superior-general Sister Prema, and her predecessor, Sister
Nirmala, also attended the mass held at the first-floor chapel.
In his message from the Vatican, Pope Benedict XVI described Mother
Teresa as an "exemplary model of Christian virtue".
Giving his "paternal, apostolic Blessing" to the MoC and all those
the order served, he said: "I encourage you to draw constantly from
the spirituality and example of Mother Teresa, and in her footsteps
to take up Christ's invitation: 'Come, be my light'."
Mother Teresa exemplified love, the Pope said, and added: "May this
love continue to inspire you as Missionaries of Charity, to give
yourselves generously to Jesus, whom you see and serve in the poor,
the sick, the infirm and the abandoned."
In a message to Sister Prema, the Pope expressed confidence that the
centenary year will be for the church and the world an occasion of
joyful gratitude to god for the "inestimable gift" that the Mother
was in her lifetime.
The doors of Mother House were thrown open to the public and
hundreds of slum dwellers from the city walked in and prayed before
Mother's tomb. A large number of people also came from abroad.
A four-day Mother Teresa International Film Festival 2010 (MTIFF
2010) on the life and message of the 'Angel of Mercy' was declared
open by Sister Prema.
"We have organised this film festival to pay our homage to Mother
Teresa. The festival will spread the message of love and peace that
Mother has preached all through his life. The festival will travel
to many foreign countries and across 100 cities and towns across
India," said Sunil Lucas, festival director.
A special train showcasing the nun's life and philanthropic deeds
was inaugurated by Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee at Sealdah
station. Christened 'Mother Express', the train will travel to
different stations of the country over the next six months.
Speaking on the occasion, Banerjee said the central government will
soon issue a coin to pay tribute to Mother Teresa on her birth
Born Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu to Albanian parents in Skopje, which is
now in Macedonia, Aug 26, 1910, Mother Teresa left her parental home
at 18, and joined the Sisters of Loreto, an Irish community of nuns
with missions in India.
Years later, she took Indian citizenship and left the convent with
the church's nod to serve the poor and the ailing. She set up
Missionaries of Charity in 1950 at 14, Creek Lane, but shifted to
the Mother House in 1953 as her order expanded.
Mother Teresa was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979 and given
India's highest civilian honour, Bharat Ratna, in 1980 for her
humanitarian work. MoC now comprises over 4,500 sisters and is
active in 133 countries.
It runs homes for people with HIV/AIDS, leprosy and tuberculosis. It
also conducts children's and family counselling programmes and runs
orphanages and schools.