VATICAN CITY — Mother Teresa's path to sainthood was cleared after the Vatican confirmed that Pope Francis had approved a decision to attribute a second miracle to the Catholic nun who dedicated her life to India's poor.
Italian bishops' newspaper Avvenire first reported Thursday, on Francis' 79th birthday, that the pontiff ratified the findings of the Vatican's saint-making committee on the miraculous healing of a man suffering from serious brain disease.
The patient from Santos, Brazil, was diagnosed with "viral brain infection that resulted in multiple abscesses with triventricular hydrocephalus," Father Brian Kolodiejchuk, the prelate steering Teresa's canonization, said in a separate statement.
He was taken comatose for emergency surgery on Dec. 9, 2008. Half an hour later, a doctor "found the patient inexplicably awake and without pain," and exams the next day found him with no more symptoms of disease, Kolodiejchuk said.
The miracle was said to have happened after the man's wife, along with relatives, friends and her parish priest, addressed prayers to Teresa. Since the healing, the couple had two children, despite doctors thinking that treatment had made him sterile.
Miracle recognition is part of the Catholic Church's sanctification process.
A first one had already been attributed to Teresa in 2002, paving the way for her to be elevated to the rank of "blessed," but progress towards sainthood normally requires the acknowledgement of a second miracle.
Canonization is formalized in a Mass. Kolodiejchuk said the date should be announced at the next consistory — a meeting between the pope and cardinals — and Avvenire suggested it was very likely to fall on Sunday, Sept. 4, 2016.
That would be the eve of Teresa's feast day, celebrated on the anniversary of her death, which took place in Kolkata, India, on Sept. 5, 1997, when she was 87.
Born Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu on Aug. 26, 1910, in what is today Macedonia, the ethnic Albanian Teresa took Indian citizenship. She founded the Missionaries of Charity in 1950 and gained worldwide recognition for her work, including a Nobel Peace Prize in 1979.
"We are very excited and happy," a spokeswoman for the Missionaries of Charities, Sister Christie, told dpa. "Celebrations will be prayers, more prayers, eventually an all-faith prayer will be held," Sunita Kumar, another spokeswoman for the order, told broadcaster NDTV.
The canonization process started in 1999, when Pope John Paul II decided to waive the five-year cooling-off period usually required after a would-be saint's death. Beatification, which granted her the title Blessed Teresa of Kolkata, came four years later.
Teresa is a revered figure throughout the world, but her speedy path to sainthood — in modern times, second only to John Paul II's, who made the grade in 2014 nine years after his death — has not been without its critics.
"It should be noted that her long time spiritual adviser was a serial predator, Jesuit Father Donald McGuire, who was criminally convicted," Barbara Blaine, President of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said Friday.
"When it is advantageous for Catholic officials to move quickly, like sainthood for popular figures Mother Teresa and Pope John Paul II, they move quickly. But when it is advantageous for church officials to move slowly, like the clergy sex cases, they move slowly," she added.
Previously, the late British-born polemicist Christopher Hitchens criticized Teresa's readiness to accept donations from dictators and her hardline views on abortion and contraception, while Indian rationalists questioned the veracity of her first recognized miracle.