- The Washington Times - Friday, August 24, 2001

CALCUTTA — The bulge on her stomach was unusually big, and it was growing. Doctors found a huge tumor in the intestine of the 35-year-old woman.
But doctors refused to take Monica Besra to the operating theater because, suffering from tuberculosis, the woman was considered too weak to withstand the surgery.
The nuns at a Missionaries of Charity (MoC) home at Patiram, 240 miles north of Calcutta, could do nothing except pray for her. They surrounded her bed and one of them placed a medallion of Mother Teresa — from the nun herself — on the tribal woman's swollen stomach.
The woman became quiet and fell asleep. When she woke up around midnight, the tumor was gone, the MoC reported.
This "miracle" of Sept. 5, 1998, the first anniversary of Mother Teresa's death, holds the key to the beatification of Mother Teresa, who is on the fast track to recognition of her sainthood by the Roman Catholic Church.
As the diocesan inquiry looking into her life and works drew to a close in Calcutta last week, Archbishop Henry D'Souza received the 35,000 pages of documents and testimony supporting her sainthood.
The 12-member episcopal team, known as devil's advocates, took two years to complete the investigation, which involved interviewing the witnesses and scanning thousands of related documents.
Archbishop D'Souza said the investigation had found that Mother Teresa's heroic qualities were of such significance that it was appropriate she be honored as a saint.
"Things are in good order. We shall not be surprised if the beatification takes place before the end of this year," said the archbishop. "I am sure that to reach sainthood it will not take long for Mother, who had a solid reputation of holiness in her own lifetime. People considered her a 'living saint' after all."
One miracle is needed for beatification; to attain sainthood, one more is needed in the post-beatification period.
Episcopal sources in Calcutta say the Missionaries of Charity in Calcutta have been told of about 112 cases of miraculous cures of people through Mother Teresa. A Palestinian girl reportedly was cured of her bone cancer after she dreamt of Mother Teresa one day before her operation. In Miami, a French woman who broke several ribs in a car accident said her injuries healed after she wore a Mother Teresa medallion around her neck.
However, a section of the media and some other rationalists have raised doubts about the authenticity of the claimed miracles. "Excessive secrecy deployed by Mother Teresa's order, and her successor Sister Nirmala, in Mrs. Besra's case raised more questions than answers," wrote the London Observer.
The MoC and the probe team refused to discuss publicly what exactly happened with Mrs. Besra. Narendra Dabholkar, chairman of Maharashtra Andhashraddha Nirmulan Samiti — an organization dedicated to eradication of superstitions — said the legendary Nobel laureate should be canonized on the merits of her exemplary missionary service rather than "dishonoring" her by ascribing miracles to her.
"It is possible that cases of automatic regressions are being bracketed as 'miracles,'" said Dr. Dabholkar, a physician.
In 1999, Pope John Paul II waived the mandatory wait of five years before the sainthood process for Mother Teresa could begin. The Vatican says she has been made a special case because of a deluge of demands from around the world.


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