NEWD DELHI, (Dr John Dayal) — The recent twin canonizations of Popes John XXIII and John Paul II have raised hopes in the faithful in India that Pope Francis will consider an early declaration of sainthood for some of the six Indian church greats, including Mother Teresa and Joseph Vaz, who are now in the category of the Blessed.
No one cavils the speeded up processes for the two Holy fathers whose historic work for the church, and in world affairs, merits them the position of saints, to be honoured and revered, their intercession sought in our prayers. Both are dearly loved in India. John XXIII’s empowerment for the laity, his concern for the peoples of the third world – the developing countries – and in many ways ending the western ethos of the Catholic church and making it truly universal in liturgy are signal contributions which have been noted by both clerical and lay faithful scholars and community leaders.
John Paul II is in a different category altogether. Almost everyone in India remembers him, not just Catholics or faithful of other Christian denominations, but persons of other faiths. He visited India twice, going to all corners of the country, far away from the usual visits that others make to just New Delhi or Mumbai. John Paul II celebrated mass in such public places as the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in New Delhi, and interacted with a wide cross section of the population, among them leaders of various political groups and sages of other faiths, many of who shared the stage with him. For the political groups, he was one of the main personalities instrumental in the fall of the Iron Curtain, and for bringing democracy to a very large part of eastern Europe which was till then in the thrall of the Soviet Union. In doing so, he personified man’s yearning for freedom, and strengthened the universal struggle for freedom of faith. For the ordinary Catholics, he was already a saintly figure even when he was alive, and they knew he would be formally canonized in a short time.
Some memorable photographs very dear to the Indian heart show Pope John Paul II with Mother Teresa, affectionately holding her gnarled hands in his own, engaged in animated conversation, the tiny figure of the Mother in her blue bordered sari a contrast to his sportsman-like figure which was even then defying age and perhaps the early signs of his illness.
The Mother has been beatified, and in fact, I worship at the Blessed Teresa Parish church in East New Delhi. There are already several other Teresa Parishes in the country, a sign of the love they repose in her.
But more than emotions, there are other reasons why it is hoped that Pope Francis will perhaps even waive a few conditions and ensure that Teresa is canonized at an early date. Kerala does have a Saint, Sr. Alfonso, and the other three St Francis Xavier, Gonsolo Garcia and John de Brito were also from the western coast, working in the south India-Sri Lanka region. Not any in the vast reaches of North India know of them. Many would therefore say that after Saint Thomas the Apostle, the Patron Saint of India, Mother Teresa is the first candidate for sainthood who is known in every corner of India, and by everyone. Her canonization would have far reaching impact on not just the Catholic community, but on evangelisation among the peoples.
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