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Mother Teresa, Now A Saint, Was Not Without Flaws

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

We have a couple of stories for you now about important news from the Catholic Church. Earlier today, Pope Francis bestowed the Catholic honor of sainthood on the Albanian nun known as Mother Teresa in a ceremony at the Vatican St. Peter's Square. More than 100,000 people gathered there to honor now St. Teresa, who's known around the world for helping the neediest people of Kolkata, India. Christopher Livesay reports from Rome.

CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY, BYLINE: More than 100,000 people gather in St. Peter's Square. As Pope Francis proclaims Mother Teresa a saint, relics of her hair and blood are presented to the faithful for veneration. Her ascent to sainthood was swift, thanks to the intervention of late Pope John Paul II. His own canonization came in record time, just two years ago. In their lifetime, the two appeared frequently together, sharing a passion for traditional church values and a disdain for abortion. Here's Mother Teresa receiving the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979.

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MOTHER TERESA: The greatest destroyer of peace today is the cry of the innocent unborn child.

LIVESAY: But most people in St. Peter's Square compare Mother Teresa to the man who's proclaiming her a saint - Pope Francis.

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POPE POPE FRANCIS: (Foreign language spoken).

LIVESAY: It was Francis, the people's pope, who signed off on her canonization last year after the Vatican said it verified the second of her two miracles required for sainthood. In one case, she's said to have cured a woman with cancer. The other, a man with a brain infection. And others profess more miracles still. Stefano Impellizzeri is visiting from Turin. He says Mother Teresa appeared to him in a dream when he was recovering from a leg injury that could have left him permanently disabled.

STEFANO IMPELLIZZERI: (Through interpreter) She said, you need to suffer. You'll walk again, but you need to embrace your suffering.

LIVESAY: Christ-like suffering that brings one closer to God - a staple of Catholic doctrine, but one that her critics argue she took too far. They say that often led her to provide only minimal and unhygienic services to the needy in her care. Then there was the money she took from disgraced public figures such as Haitian dictator Jean-Claude Baby Doc Duvalier and Charles Keating, the man behind the savings and loan scandal of the 1980s. Robert Mickens is a veteran Vatican analyst. He acknowledges Mother Teresa's flaws, but believes her intentions were good.

ROBERT MICKENS: So she was an extraordinary woman and, yes, the controversies aside, I think, you know, saints are sometimes a bit crazy (laughter) by modern day standards. But they do what they do out of craziness for God.

LIVESAY: They're not perfect, he adds. They're people just like us. For NPR News, I'm Christopher Livesay in Rome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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