Pope Pays An Emotional House Call

[It’s Monday, February 3, 1986, and Pope John Paul II pays an emotional house call  at the home for the dying established by Mother Teresa in Calcutta on the third leg of his 14-city sojourn across India.

Mother Teresa
(August 26, 1910 – September 5,  1997)

Pope John Paul II
(May 18, 1920 – April 2, 2005)
After a 40-minute tour of the facility founded by the Nobel-laureate nun, the pontiff says the 120-bed hospice is a sacred place where “the mystery of human suffering meets the
mystery of faith and love.”
Mother Teresa appears enlivened by the papal presence despite her generally frail health at the age of 75, and says the Pope’s visit to see “the poorest of the poor” in her south Calcutta home makes this “the happiest day of my life.”]

On his arrival in India’s largest city on that memorable Monday 32 years ago, the Pope was greeted by more than 100,000 people lining his motorcade route from the Dum Dum airport to Mother Teresa’s home, known as the Nirmal Hriday Ashram. The sandstone structure, located on the grounds of a Hindu temple, has taken in nearly 50,000 homeless and gravely ill patients since its founding in 1952.

The Pope was escorted through the ashram by Mother Teresa, stopping by each of the 86 occupied beds to bless the patients. The vast majority of them were Hindu, but the Pope gave each a rosary.

He also helped the Missionaries of Charity sisters serve a modest evening meal of wheat bread, potato curry and sweet curds to the infirm. “I don’t know who he is,” said one emaciated patient, “but he must be a big boss.” Here are some notable dates before and after her death:

  • August 20, 1993 Mother Teresa hospitalized with malaria
  • September 13, 1997 Mother Teresa’s State Funeral held in India
  • October 10, 2003 Mother Teresa of Calcutta is beatified by Pope John Paul II
  • September 4, 2016 Mother Teresa canonized by Pope Francis in a ceremony at the Vatican

Long before the 1986 Papal visit, I had been a resident of Calcutta working in a mercantile firm and housed in a company apartment block that was a 20-minute walk away from the Ashram , which I passed by fairly frequently. Also, as the executive of the company’s charitable trust, I used to hand-deliver during my term as trustee an annual donation by way of a check made out to the Missionaries of Charity office, seen below:

I never met the now sainted Mother in the flesh, but was fully aware, almost on a daily basis, of the unbelievable role she played in easing the life of Calcutta’s poor in its teeming slum districts.

References: Chicago Tribune Correspondent Bruce BuursmaEncyclopedia Britannica; Wikipedia; On this Day Website

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