From ‘Angel of Mercy’ to ‘Fraud’: Saint Teresa was both adored and attacked


For those who revered her, Mother Teresa’s elevation to the Catholic sainthood on Sunday came not a moment too soon.

The diminutive nun whose journey from a corner of the Ottoman Empire to the slums of India made her one of the most famous women in the world was regarded by many as a saint during her lifetime.

“Saint of the Gutters” and “Angel of Mercy,” were among the sobriquets she picked up over the course of nearly four decades working with the wretched poor of Kolkata and building her Missionaries of Charity order into a global force.

But there was another school of thought. Australian feminist Germaine Greer called her a “religious imperialist” who preyed on the most vulnerable in the name of harvesting souls for Jesus.

And her most ferocious critic, the British polemicist Christopher Hitchens, “a fanatic, a fundamentalist and a fraud.”

But Teresa was always far more revered than reviled. Millions acclaimed her as an icon of Christian charity and a global symbol of anti-materialism and worthwhile self-sacrifice.

Her adopted homeland, India, took her to its heart. “It is natural for every Indian to take pride in Mother Teresa’s canonisation,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi said earlier this week.

On her death in 1997, Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II predicted Teresa would “continue to live on in the hearts of all those who have been touched by her selfless love.”

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