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Archive of October 20, 2003

Pope Urges Pilgrims To Preserve Mother Teresa’s Charism

Vatican City, Oct 20, 2003 (CNA) - Mother Teresa’s entire existence was a "hymn to life" that reminds us that being Christian means being witnesses of charity, Pope John Paul II told members of Mother Teresa’s congregation in a private audience today.

"To her, I was bound with a great regard and sincere affection. For this reason, I am particularly happy to be here with you, her spiritual daughters and sons," he told the pilgrims. Some Missionaries of Charity had travelled to Rome for their foundress’ beatification yesterday.

"There is no doubt that the new Blessed was one of the greatest missionaries of the 20th century," said the Pope. "From this simple woman, from one of the poorest regions in Europe, the Lord created an instrument to announce the Gospel to the whole world not through preaching, but through the daily acts of love toward the poorest people."

Mother Teresa found her strength to place herself completely at the service of others in prayer and in the silent contemplation of Jesus Christ, said the Pope.

"She herself said as much: ‘The fruit of silence is prayer; the fruit of prayer is faith; the fruit of faith is love; the fruit of love is service; the fruit of service is peace’," said Pope John Paul, quoting the new Blessed. "It was prayer that filled her heart with Christ’s own peace and enabled her to radiate that peace to others."

Pope John Paul called the native-Albanian nun a missionary of peace and life and a "missionary with the most universal language: that of charity without limits and without exclusions, without preferences if only toward the most abandoned."

"She always spoke out in defence of human life, even when her message was unwelcome.

"Mother Teresa’s whole existence was a hymn to life. Her daily encounters with death, leprosy, AIDS and every kind of human suffering made her a forceful witness to the Gospel of Life.

"Her very smile was a ‘yes’ to life,…. She renewed that ‘yes’ each morning, in union with Mary, at the foot of Christ’s Cross. The ‘thirst’ of the crucified Jesus became Mother Teresa’s own thirst and the inspiration of her path of holiness."

The pope added that Mother Teresa truly embodied the title ‘Mother’ as the mother of the poor, of children and of many young people for whom she was a spiritual guide and who shared in her mission.

"From a small seed, the Lord allowed a large tree to grow, rich with fruit. And you, daughters and sons of Mother Teresa, are the most eloquent signs of this prophetic fecundity. Conserve, unchanged, her charism and follow her examples, and she, from heaven, will continue to sustain you in your daily path."

The pope personally greeted Sr. Nirmala, a Hindu convert, who succeeded Mother Teresa as mother general of the congregation. Mother Teresa died Sept. 5, 1997.

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Woman’s Cure is Witness to Mother Teresa’s Healing Power

Calcutta, India, Oct 20, 2003 (CNA) - The woman whose illness was cured through the intercession of Mother Teresa said she is the instrument God chose to show the enormous healing power of the sister renowned the world over for serving the poorest of the poor.

"God chose me as the medium for people to see Mother Teresa's enormous power to cure, not only with her physical cures, but through her miracles," Monica Besra told the Associated Press, before leaving for Rome for Mother Teresa’s beatification ceremony, held Mission Sunday, Oct. 19.

The 35-year-old told AP that the miracle began with a vision. Besra fell seriously ill in 1998 however, the causes of her illness vary. Some doctors said she had a malignant tumor, while others said she had tubercular meningitis. She visited the hospital and was prescribed four anti-TB drugs.

Unable to care for herself, and too poor to remain at the state hospital, Besra's family took her to a hospice run by the Missionaries of Charity. On the first anniversary of Mother Teresa’s death – Sept. 5, 1998 – the sisters told her that the day was holy and invited her to pray with them, even though she was Hindu, reported AP.

"When I went in for the prayers and looked at a photograph of Mother Teresa, I saw rays of light coming from her eyes, and I felt very light and dizzy," Besra told AP. "I started shaking and my heart was beating very fast. I felt scared as I didn't know what was happening to me."

Besra told AP that the sisters helped her back to bed and told her to pray. At 5 p.m., they placed a medallion of Mother Mary on the large lump in her right abdomen and told her to pray. "At 1 a.m. the next morning, I awoke with a start and suddenly felt so light," Besra told AP. "I was so excited, I woke up the woman in the bed next to me, Simira, and told her, 'Look, it's gone!'" Besra and her family have since converted to Catholicism.

The postulator for Mother Teresa’s cause, Fr. Brian Kolodiejchuk, said five Italian doctors found no medical explanation for the cure. The Canadian priest added that the Congregation for the Causes of Saints interviewed 113 people and has 35,000 pages of documentation about the sister’s virtues.

Pope John Paul II credited Mother Teresa with Besra’s cure last year, thereby approving the sister’s first miracle – a necessary step before beatification. Mother Teresa will be eligible for sainthood after she has been credited with a second miracle.

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India Celebrates Mother Teresa

Calcutta, India, Oct 20, 2003 (CNA) - All of the church bells in Calcutta rang yesterday afternoon to announce and celebrate the beatification of their beloved and Blessed Mother Teresa. The native Albanian sister and foundress of the Missionaries of Charity, was beatified by Pope John Paul II yesterday in Rome, and about 2.5 million Catholics in India celebrated with thanksgiving masses, interfaith prayer services, musicals and film screenings.

In the Diocese of Pune, where Calcutta and the Missionaries’ motherhouse are located, the churches marked the occasion with weeklong celebrations, which included Eucharistic Adoration, public masses, interfaith services for peace, prayer meetings and feeding the poor.

A special mass was also celebrated at the sisters’ motherhouse and large screens were set up so the sisters and the neighborhood children could watch the live broadcast of the beatification ceremony in Rome.

In addition to prayer services, daily adoration and mass, Mother Teresa’s former parish, St. Teresa of Avila, organized a cricket tournament. Many people of all faiths have been visiting the 15,000-member parish to seek blessings from Mother Teresa, reported the pastor, Fr. Orson Wells. The parish is also organizing a visit to Mother Teresa’s tomb at the motherhouse for the street children on Children’s Day, Nov. 14. After games, they will be served a free lunch.

Celebrations in India will continue into next month. A public celebration of the historic event is organized for the first week of November. In addition, a four-day exhibit of several paintings on the life of Mother Teresa will begin Nov. 5 at St. Xavier College. The exhibit is based on the beatification theme “Come, be my light!”.

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Teacher & Advocate Receives Mother Teresa Award

Manila, Philippines, Oct 20, 2003 (CNA) - The 20th Mother Teresa Award was conferred to a woman who is an educator, women's rights advocate, diplomat, civic leader, and promoter of Philippine arts and culture.

Helena Zoila Benitez received the honor at the recent award ceremonies, where she was described as "a versatile, well-rounded person and modern-day Renaissance lady" who "sees no bounds or limits when it comes to helping the poor," reported the Inquirer News Service.

The award was established in 1983 by the Alfonso Yuchengco Foundation Inc. and Manila Jaycees. Inspired by Mother Teresa, the award is given to outstanding individuals who have dedicated their lives in the service of the poor, the destitute and the abandoned. Mother Teresa, the Albanian-born nun who founded the Missionaries of Charity to take care of the poorest of the poor, died in September 1997 at the age of 87. She was beatified yesterday in Rome.

The National Graduate University of Washington, D.C also inducted Benitez recently into the international Democratic Hall of Fame. She was the third to gain this distinction – the first two were former U.S. presidents Harry S. Truman and Ronald Reagan. Benitez also received the Pro Ecclesia et Pontefice from Pope John Paul II in 1994 for her service as a catechist and a Catholic lay leader.

Benitez was chosen from among 38 nominees. The award includes a cash prize P1 million (translate to US dollars), half of which she will donate to the Associacion de Damas Filipinas in Paco, Manila, a home for orphans and abandoned children founded by her mother, Francisca Tirona Benitez.

The late Fr. Anthony Hoffste, a priest who spent 35 years tending to the needs of the Hansenites at Tala Leprosarium, was the first Mother Teresa Award recipient. Mother Teresa conferred the award to Fr. Hoffste in Manila in 1983.

Other past recipients include: Sr. Carmen Locsin, who works with overseas Filipinas in Japan; Laureana Franco, a catechist; Fr. Graetian Murray, who took care of orphaned and abandoned children for 40 years; Sr. Maggiorina Arenas, who has spent a good part of her life among the Mangyans of Mindoro; Sr. Eva Fidela Maamo, an accomplished surgeon; and Dr. Aleli Guzman Quirino, who founded the St. Martin de Porres Charity Hospital and devoted her life to charity work.

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