Mother Teresa will be made a saint in September, Pope Francis announced today (March 15).
The Catholic nun, a Nobel laureate born Agnese Gonxha Bojaxhiu who died in 1997 at the age of 87, is most famously known the work she carried out in the slums of Kolkata, India. She founded the Missionaries of Charity there in the 1950s, which quickly spread throughout the world. She was affectionately known as the “saint of the gutters.”
Popes have had to approve saints since 1234. The process will be swift for the nun at only 19 years; since 1590, the time between death and sainthood has averaged 181 years, according to research by Harvard economics professor Robert Barro quoted by The Guardian.
Usually, the church has to wait five years before it begins its fact-finding mission about the candidates for sainthood. But Pope John Paul II waived this requirement and accepted evidence of Mother Teresa’s first miracle in 2002. (she apparently cured a woman of a stomach tumor in Calcutta.)
Mother Teresa was beatified a year later (paywall)—which is when the pope declares the deceased person is now in heaven. (Before 1983, to be beatified, someone had to perform two or more miracles, though “only” one is required now.) After beatification, the church has to recognize a miracle in order to begin canonization, where the person is officially declared as a saint.
Pope Francis recognized this second miracle attributed to Mother Teresa last year. She supposedly healed a Brazilian man with several brain tumors in 2008—11 years after her death. In doing so, the Vatican also waived a 1917 rule that a minimum of 50 years should pass between beatification and sainthood.
Though Mother Teresa is widely revered by Catholics (around 15,000 people attended her funeral service), there’s been widespread criticism of her charitable work. Christopher Hitchens went as far as to describe her as “a fanatic, a fundamentalist, and a fraud,” in particular for her views regarding abortion, contraception, and divorce.
More recently, the Missionaries of Charity was heavily criticized for deciding to shut down orphanages than allowing single-parent adoption.
Mother Teresa will be canonized on Sept. 4, 2016.