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Roman Catholic Church Prepares to Honor Mother Teresa


The Roman Catholic Church is making plans to honor Mother Teresa during a special ceremony at the Vatican.

Mother Teresa was a religious worker. She spent most of her working life helping the poor in Kolkata, India. During her lifetime, she was given many awards, including the Nobel Peace Prize. She died in 1997.

On September 4th, Pope Francis will officially recognize Mother Teresa as a saint. That means church leaders recognize her as a holy person and believe she joined Jesus Christ in Heaven immediately after her death.

Many people believed Mother Teresa had an unlimited capacity to give people unconditional love.

She once said there are two kinds of poverty -- “the poverty of material, for example, in some places like India, Ethiopia or some other places, where people are hungry for bread, real hunger. But there is much deeper hunger, and that is hunger for love.”

Mother Teresa was born Anjeza Gonxhe Bojaxhiu on August 26, 1910 in Skopje, Macedonia. She was the third child of Albanian parents. When she was 18, she decided to become a nun -- a Catholic religious worker.

She joined a religious group as a student and then became a teacher at a Roman Catholic school for girls in Kolkata, formerly known as Calcutta.

Professor Gëzim Alpion has studied the life of Mother Teresa and written about her. He worked for many years to persuade the church to recognize her as a saint. He says Mother Teresa left her teaching position to work among the poor in the slums of Kolkata. She began a religious group she called Missionaries of Charity.

Alpion says “what Mother Teresa put in practice was different from the European orders in Kolkata and India at that time. She believed she could serve the people better by living like them, in the poorest areas of Kolkata. And she did this with that kind of integrity which is impossible not to admire,” he says.

Mother Teresa had to fight hard with church officials for permission to begin her humanitarian work. Then she had to fight with officials in India who were worried that she was trying to spread Christianity. They soon understood that all she wanted to do was live among the poor and help them.

Gëzim Alpion says Mother Teresa’s beliefs could be seen in her work.

“Yes, there are two sides of Mother Teresa, if you like -- the religious aspect of her work, as well as the humanitarian aspect. Both of them are linked together, and Mother Teresa had the ability to express her philosophy of life, her theology, if you like, through simple words but which have, if you like, a deep philosophical meaning.”

Mother Teresa was given the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1979. At the ceremony, she talked about the joy of spreading peace and loving one another. She said there was joy in realizing that the poor are “our brothers and sisters.”

Archbishop Engjëll Masafra is an Albanian church leader.

“That a small woman physically, but in fact a great person, who has been called the Mother of Humanity, of the World, becomes a saint, it’s a great honor, as well as an obligation for us Albanians, that in spite of the religion they belong to, like Mother Teresa to be as a model for the love of God and to help others.”

The Missionaries of Charity -- the organization Mother Teresa launched with 20 nuns -- now has 4,500 nuns who work in more than 130 countries.

I’m Christopher Jones-Cruise.

VOA’s Laura Konda reported this story from Washington. Christopher Jones-Cruise adapted her report for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.

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Words in This Story

Heaven – n. the place where God lives and where good people go after they die according to some religions

capacity – n. the ability to do something; a mental, emotional, or physical ability

slum – n. an area of a city where poor people live and the buildings are in bad condition

integrity – n. the quality of being honest and fair

aspect – n. a part of something (usually + of)

in spite of – n. without being prevented by (something); “despite” -- used to say that something happens or is true even though there is something that might prevent it from happening or being true

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