News25th Anniversary of Death: The Controversial Legacy of Mother...

25th Anniversary of Death: The Controversial Legacy of Mother Teresa

Created: 05.09.2022 Updated: 09/05/2022 03:24 am

Mutter Teresa
Mother Teresa is considered by many to be an icon of charity – but in India there was and is criticism of the nun. © Tim Brakemeier/dpa

She is one of the most celebrated women in the Catholic Church: Mother Teresa. She died 25 years ago. Her legacy remains – it’s not without controversy

New Delhi – For many, Mother Teresa is the epitome of charity. And even though the Nobel Peace Prize laureate, who was canonized by Pope Francis, has been dead for a quarter of a century, she continues to attract many visitors and volunteers to the Indian city of Kolkata, which was called Calcutta when she was alive. Here Mother Teresa founded the Catholic order of the “Missionaries of Charity” as well as homes for the poor, sick and dying people. She was called the “Angel of the Poor”.

And volunteers follow their example to this day. “The important work of the mother continues just as it used to,” said Order spokeswoman Sunita Kumar. “And on the day of her death, the sisters will pray for her grave.”

Mother Teresa was born in 1910 in Skopje, in what is now Macedonia. Her parents baptized her Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu. At the age of 18 she entered the Irish Loreto order and soon came to India as a novice, where she first taught at a Catholic school. She took the name Teresa, after the French Saint Therese of Lisieux. Poverty in Kolkata shook Teresa and she experienced what she later described as “God’s second call”. Jesus wanted her to follow him into the slums, she said. In 1950 she founded her order. She died in 1997 at the age of 87.

criticism of missionary work

In addition to many admirers, the Catholic also has critics who did not fall silent after her death. One point of criticism: you have not acted selflessly and mainly tried to convert the poor to Christianity. This is what the head of the influential Hindu nationalist group Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), Mohan Bhagwat, said.

The group is a thorn in the side of people in the predominantly Hindu country who want to convert Hindus. The long-time spokeswoman for “Missionaries of Charity”, Sunita Kumar – herself a Hindu – rejected this: Children taken from the streets, for example, were only brought up as Christians if their religion was not known.

Another point of criticism: Mother Teresa accepted funds from controversial personalities, such as the former dictator of Haiti, Jean-Claude Duvalier, or Charles Keating, who was involved in a financial scandal in the USA in the 1980s. In addition, there is said to have been poor care and bad hygiene conditions in some facilities. In response to this criticism, Mother Teresa said: “It is a beautiful thing to see the poor who accept their fate and suffer it like Christ. The world gains so much from its suffering.”

The view of Teresa has changed

Mother Teresa has traditionally been very critical of contraception and abortion – including in her acceptance speech for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979.

Some consider Mother Teresa a saint, others a hypocrite. And still others have changed their attitude over the years. For example, Anuradha Sen, who works for an aid organization in Kolkata. Sen said her father once gave Mother Teresa land as a gift. She wrote to her at the time to get her blessing and a postcard signed by her idol. The 62-year-old still admires Mother Teresa’s work. As a Hindu, however, she wonders whether Mother Teresa might not have taken advantage of people’s poverty to force a foreign religion on them. Sen also thinks that praising Mother Teresa belittles her own city and creates the impression that only she helped the poor in Kolkata.

Despite all the criticism, Mother Teresa still has many admirers. Several thousand sisters in spirit with her are working in centers around the world, the spokeswoman said. And the Archbishop of Kolkata, Thomas D’Souza, also emphasized Mother Teresa’s legacy two years ago: During the corona pandemic, she inspired people of all faiths to continue caring for the sick, poor and hungry. dpa

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