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Formal 'Sainthood' Investigation of Mother Teresa Complete - 2001-08-19

Catholic Church authorities have completed formal investigation into the life of Mother Teresa, ending the first phase in her possible beatification. The report on the late native Albanian nun, who spent a lifetime caring for the poor and sick in Calcutta, will be presented to the Vatican later this week.

The investigation into what is called the "life, virtues and reputation of sanctity" of Mother Teresa began in 1999, two years after she died. Citing overwhelming popular demand, Pope John Paul II took the unprecedented step of waiving the customary five-year waiting period to start the process that could lead to sainthood.

The findings are contained in a 35,000-page report, and will be carried to the Vatican in six sealed boxes.

Calcutta church authorities say dozens of witnesses were examined. The report also includes details of a miracle the Mother reportedly performed on a woman suffering from stomach cancer in West Bengal. Confirmation of one miracle is required for beatification, and a second miracle for sainthood.

Calcutta Archbishop Henry Sebastian D'Souza tells about the reported miracle.

"This lady had a tumor in her stomach - a rather large mass of flesh, and the various x-rays had shown that this tumor had to be removed," he said. "And she began to pray to Mother Teresa - kept a relic on her stomach, and as it happened on the first death anniversary of Mother Teresa that tumor or that mass of material disappeared. And there was no way of knowing how it disappeared."

The Vatican's chief investigator Brian Kolodiejchuk says the report on Mother Teresa's character and actions is not without criticism because it includes what he calls "defects in the practice of virtues."

But he says he was overwhelmed by the findings.

"I had this real sense of kind of discovery," he said. "Because there were different aspects and little details of Mother's life that we never knew. Because, as public a person as she was, she was a very private person."

The second phase of the inquiry will be conducted in Rome. The report will be sent to a panel of theologians, and later to a panel of cardinals and bishops. A vote by the bishops will pass to the Pope, who will make the final judgement.

Some critics have argued that the late nun should not be put on what they call the "fast track to sainthood." Mother Teresa won worldwide acclaim as a champion of the poor, but her life was not without controversy. She was criticized by some people for accepting donations from controversial benefactors, such as the former Haitian dictator, "Baby Doc" Duvalier. Her critics also accused her of caring more for the salvation of souls than saving the sick and dying.

In Calcutta, Mother Teresa founded the religious order of the Sisters of Charity. It now has about 4,000 members working in about 120 countries. The sisters in Calcutta say they are praying for her early sainthood.