Rome, Oct. 18: Groups of Indian Christians from Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Goa and almost every part of the country were this afternoon wandering around the magnificent setting of St Peter’s Square in Rome where the Pope will realise his long cherished ambition tomorrow of presiding personally over the beatification of Mother Teresa.
Compared with the stark austerity of Mother House in Calcutta, this was like a giant Cecil de Mille set. An estimated 400,000 pilgrims from all over the world have been vying for prize tickets to get into the square for even by the standards of the Church of Rome, this will be the mother of all beatifications.
The Government of India will be represented by P.C. Thomas, the minister of state for law and justice. The Indian ambassador in Berne, B.L. Goyal, who is accredited to the Vatican, is already in town. Also attending is a delegation from Calcutta, led by Sister Nirmala.
But one suspects that it is the presence of ordinary folk from India that would have moved Mother Teresa the most.
Asked what was in her heart, Usha Sabu, from Kochi, was lost for words. Her husband, Sebastian Sabu, replied on her behalf: “Love is in her heart. We are very happy.”
He said: “We are 49 people who have come, via Lourdes in France, from Kochi. We have never been to Rome before.”
Asked whether Mother Teresa really required a beatification to confirm her status, he said: “This is required by history.”
A woman journalist from Mexico, Josefina Claudia Herrera, who spoke a mixture of Spanish and sparse English, did her level best to interview the Indians. Tomorrow, for two hours, she will be broadcasting live to Mexican radio stations, she said.
An Indian nurse, Sister Rosalie, who has spent 10 years in Rome, described the atmosphere: “It’s like a big feast for all Indians.” Asked about the need for the beatification, a step before Mother Teresa is declared a saint, she said: “I feel it’s a mystery I can’t answer but it’s God’s work.”
As a priest from Ireland, Father Michael Connolly, hurried across the square, there was some attempt at analysis to explain Mother Teresa’s remarkable hold on the imagination of people across the world.
“Why is she known so much'” he mused. “As Mother Teresa of Calcutta, she lived to a ripe old age, travelled all over the world, talked to a lot of people to explain her work and her relationship with God. Many people, especially the young, came to India and to Calcutta to get a taste of adventure. Also, she had the force of the media behind her to project her.”
Fr Connolly gazed through the columns of St Peter’s Square and imagined what it will be like tomorrow. “The Holy Father is not well, he needs help with walking but he will follow the Cardinals, all dressed in red. There will be candles. There will be a burst of applause when he appears on the balcony and he will speak in several languages. You ask me about the mood in Rome' It’s explosive, filled with joy.”