A woman who claims she was cured of stomach tumours by praying to Mother Teresa says she “shivered” when she saw light emanating from an image of the diminutive nun , agencies report.
Monica Besra, a mother of five, told Sky News she approached nuns from Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity organisation in the remote rural village of Balurghat in northeast India in 1998, after medication failed to ease her pain.
She claims they took her into the church and asked her to pray in front of an image of the Albanian-born nun, who had died a year earlier. “I was sitting in the church and then, from the picture of Mother, this strong light came to me, it knocked me back.
“I started shivering. “I felt exhaustion. “Then I told the sisters: ‘I can’t sit here anymore, please take me back to my bed, I don’t feel well’.” The sisters then gave her a medallion bearing Mother Teresa’s image, and placed it on her stomach.
When she awoke from sleep, she claims the lumps she had been able to feel had vanished. In 2003 Pope John Paul II officially recognised Moncia Besra’s cure as a miracle, leading to Mother Teresa’s beatification – the first step in the path to Sainthood.
On Sunday Pope Francis will oversee the final stage of that process – the canonisation of Mother Teresa, which will formally acknowledge a second miracle attributed to her since her death, in which a Brazilian man was apparently cured of a brain tumour in 2008.
Tens of thousands of people are expected to attend the Vatican for the ceremony. But in Kolkata, the city where the Nobel Prize winner founded her Missionaries of Charity organisation in 1950, and where she earnt international renown for decades of work for the poor, her followers see Mother Teresa’s canonisation as something of a formality.
“She was already a saint for all of us,” said Sunita Kumar, a long-time friend of Mother Teresa, and spokesperson for her organisation. “I mean over the years you saw her work, and you took part in her work, and everything so, I mean it means it’s finalised.”
Missionaries of Charity has centres across the world, with thousands of nuns and volunteers running soup kitchens, shelters, hospices and orphanages. But, despite her reputation as one of the twentieth century’s most iconic figures, Mother Teresa also came under heavy criticism for her approach.
The most high-profile condemnation came from the late writer Christopher Hitchens, who accused her of creating “a cult of suffering” that denied people medical care, of religious fundamentalism, and of hypocrisy for the time she spent with the rich and powerful.
There has been criticism too from those who say the link made by the Vatican between her Sainthood and the performance of miracles risks discouraging already deprived people from seeking proper medical treatment.
Arindam Bhattacharya is from the Science and Rationalists’ Association of India, a group who have worked to debunk the miracle claims of Monica Besra. He said: “We would like to raise the question, if this happens and they die, and they will die, because there is nothing called a miracle in this world, who will be held responsible?
“It will be the Vatican, Pope Francis and the Missionaries of Charity.”