Mother's supporters miffed as Leftists snub beatification celebrations

"We are ready to accept the works of Mother Teresa, but not miracle theory," said one Leftist leader
( [email protected] ) Nov 17, 2003 11:16 AM EST

Calcutta, India., Nov. 16 - Roman Catholic leaders in Calcutta are expressing surprise and disappointment as Marxists who run the provincial government shy away from celebrations for the beatification of Mother Teresa, who tended to the city's poor for 50 years.

Christian groups in the Indian metropolis, from Saturday began nine days of festivities including public prayers, an art exhibition and a concert to mark the Albanian-born nun's October 19 beatification in Rome, which puts her a step closer to sainthood.

But few government officials in this leftist stronghold are taking part. Political leaders are uneasy with the Vatican's reason for beatifying Mother Teresa: the "miraculous" recovery of a tribal woman a year after the nun's death.

"Our party cadres will soon launch campaigns against the so-called miracles of self-professed godmen," said Anil Biswas, the secretary for West Bengal state, whose capital is Calcutta, of the province's ruling Communist Party of India-Marxist.

"There is no rationality behind miracles," he said.

Father C.M. Paul, the coordinator of a four-day film festival that is part of the celebrations, expressed surprise at the government's approach, noting that Mother Teresa was close to veteran state leader and Marxist Jyoti Basu.

But he said organisers of the beatification events could not even arrange an appointment with the current state leader, Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya.

"What has saddened us is that the chief minister's secretariat did not bother to inform why Bhattacharya would not be available for an audience. It would not be wrong if we say that the chief minister avoided us," the clergyman said.

The grande finale of the beatification celebrations, a concert at a Catholic school in Calcutta, will however be attended by the Indian federal government's representative in West Bengal, Governor Viren J. Shah, Paul said.

Bhattacharya's office had no comment on the reasons for not meeting the representatives.

But provincial Health Minister Surya Kanta Mishra said the government did not agree with the Vatican's conclusion that Monica Besra was cured by the power of the late nun.

"We believe that the tribal woman Monica Besras stomach tumour was cured by prolonged medication in two hospitals, not by any miracle. Doctors, who treated her at the hospitals, have already supported our claim," Mishra told Christian Today.

"We are ready to accept the works of Mother Teresa, but not the miracle theory," he said.

Besra, in a recent interview with Christian Today in her village of Nakor 450 kilometres (280 miles) north of Calcutta, dismissed cynicism and said her illness went away after prayers by Mother Teresa's order a year after the nun's death.

"It was Mother's blessings that cured me," said Besra, 35, who converted to Catholicism.

Mother Teresa founded the Missionaries of Charity in Calcutta in 1950, caring for the destitute and disabled until her death in 1997. With a steady stream of volunteers and donations, the order now has 4,500 sisters working in 133 countries.

Despite the fastest beatification in Catholic history and winning the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979, Mother Teresa faced critics, largely leftists, who accused her of failing to address core reasons for Calcutta's poverty such as income inequality and limited reproductive-health options for poor women.