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Road to Sainthood Started in Small Kosovo Church: Mother Teresa to be canonized by Catholic Church on September 4

A devout Catholic from an early age, she would later reveal that it was in the Church of the Blessed Lady in Letnica that she decided to adopt a life of religious devotion

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Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta and father Ante Gabric SJ | by zatletic. Image source: Flickr

he world will watch as Mother Teresa – a woman whom the world has come to know as a humanitarian and founder of the Missionaries of Charity, will be canonized by the Catholic Church on September 4.

A small community in Kosovo is celebrating this momentous occasion and remembering the role their congregation played in inspiring the young woman to a life of devotion, where once she spent time in her youth.

To the world, Mother Teresa came to be known as the mother of the poor and the needy, a symbol of a life of service to mankind. She began her charity work in India, where she was sent in 1929 by her religious congregation, the Loreto Sisters of Dublin. But she embraced her calling in the small Kosovo village of Letnica. Then a young woman of 18, she lived in Kosovo, where her family had resettled from her native Macedonia.

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A devout Catholic from an early age, she would later reveal that it was in the Church of the Blessed Lady in Letnica that she decided to adopt a life of religious devotion.

The church today serves a community of 500 Catholics, in a village populated mostly by Albanians, with a small Croatian minority. The congregation is headed by Father Marjan Lorenci.

“This is where Mother Teresa felt the holy calling, after she arrived here from Macedonia, from Skopje. She came here because God brought her here with her family, and it is here that she heard God’s word. This is where she took her steps on the path to serve God, and what’s more important, to serve her fellow man,” Lorenci said.

For the local community, the canonization is a source of pride and a chance to share the famous missionary of Albanian origin with the world. Kosovare Xhoni, a member of the congregation, feels privileged.

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“I was born and raised here, and I am very proud to have received my religious teachings at the same church where Mother Teresa first felt her calling,” Xhoni said.

Father Lush Gjergji, who first met Mother Teresa in 1968 and has written extensively on the Nobel laureate, says Letnica was always in her itinerary every time she visited Kosovo.

“The one place which she always visited was Letnica; it was her spiritual sanctuary,” said Gjergji, who serves as vicar of the Kosovo Archbishopric.

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rxQUq-mt3qQ

Mother Teresa visited Kosovo five times after she became a nun. But it is her charitable work around the world that garnered her international fame and the adoration of millions.

On September 4, the Catholic Church will formally declare her a saint, immortalizing a life of dedication that got its first inspiration in a church in a small Kosovo village. (VOA)

 

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Pope Calls On Sex Abuse Prevention, Concrete Action To Respond To The Scandal

More than 30 years after the scandal first erupted in Ireland and Australia and 20 years after it hit the U.S., bishops and Catholic officials in many parts of Europe, Latin America, Africa and Asia still either deny that clergy sex abuse exists in their regions or downplay the problem.

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Members of clergy attend the four-day meeting on the global sexual abuse crisis, at the Vatican, Feb. 21, 2019, in this screen grab taken from video. VOA

Pope Francis warned church leaders summoned Thursday to a landmark sex abuse prevention summit that the Catholic faithful are demanding more than just condemnation of the crimes of priests but concrete action to respond to the scandal.

Francis opened the four-day summit by telling the Catholic hierarchy that their own responsibility to deal effectively with priests who rape and molest children weighed on the proceedings.

“Listen to the cry of the young, who want justice,” and seize the opportunity to “transform this evil into a chance for understanding and purification,” Francis told the 190 leaders of bishops conferences and religious orders.

“The holy people of God are watching and expect not just simple and obvious condemnations, but efficient and concrete measures to be established,” he warned.

Pope Francis delivers a speech during the four-day meeting on the global sexual abuse crisis, at the Vatican, Feb. 21, 2019, in this screen grab taken from video.
Pope Francis delivers a speech during the four-day meeting on the global sexual abuse crisis, at the Vatican, Feb. 21, 2019, in this screen grab taken from video. VOA

More than 30 years of scandal

More than 30 years after the scandal first erupted in Ireland and Australia and 20 years after it hit the U.S., bishops and Catholic officials in many parts of Europe, Latin America, Africa and Asia still either deny that clergy sex abuse exists in their regions or downplay the problem.

Francis, the first Latin American pope, called the summit after himself botching a well-known sex abuse cover-up case in Chile last year. Realizing he had erred, he has vowed to chart a new course and is bringing the rest of the church leadership along with him.

The summit is meant as a tutorial for church leaders to learn the importance of preventing sex abuse in their churches, tending to victims and investigating the crimes when they occur.​

Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) President Tim Lennon from Tucson, Ariz., center, and SNAP members Esther Hatfield Miller from Los Angeles, left, and Carol Midboe from Austin, speak to the media in St. Peter's Square, Feb. 20, 2019.
Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) President Tim Lennon from Tucson, Ariz., center, and SNAP members Esther Hatfield Miller from Los Angeles, left, and Carol Midboe from Austin, speak to the media in St. Peter’s Square, Feb. 20, 2019.VOA

Survivors flock to Rome, seek justice

In the keynote speech, Manila Cardinal Luis Tagle choked up several times as he told the bishops that the wounds the scandal has caused among the faithful recalled the wounds of Christ on the cross. He demanded they longer run in fear or turn a blind eye to the harm caused by clergy sex abuse and their own inaction to halt the problem.

“Faith that would like to close its eyes to people’s suffering is just an illusion,” he said.

Abuse survivors have turned out in droves, coming to Rome to demand accountability and transparency from church leaders, saying the time of cover-ups is over.

Phil Saviano, who helped expose the U.S. abuse scandal by priests two decades ago, demanded that the Vatican release the names of abusers and their files.

“Do it to break the code of silence,” he told the organizing committee on the eve of the summit. “Do it out of respect for the victims of these men, and do it to help prevent these creeps from abusing any more children.”

Lowered expectations

The Vatican isn’t expecting any miracles or even a final document to come out of the summit, and the pope himself has tried to lower expectations.

But organizers say the meeting marks a turning point in the way the Catholic Church has dealt with the problem, with Francis’ own acknowledgment of his mistakes in handling the Chile abuse case a key point of departure.

“Our lack of response to the suffering of victims, yes even to the point of rejecting them and covering up the scandal to protect perpetrators and the institution has injured our people,” Tagle said in his speech. The result, he said, had left a “deep wound in our relationship with those we are sent to serve.”

Statue pulled down

Before the Vatican summit opened, activists in Poland pulled down a statue of a priest early Thursday after increasing allegations that he sexually abused minors. They said the stunt was to protest the failure of the Polish Catholic Church in resolving the problem of clergy sex abuse.

Video footage showed three men attaching a rope around the statue of the late Monsignor Henryk Jankowski in the northern city of Gdansk and pulling it to the ground in the dark. They then placed children’s underwear in one of the statue’s hands and a white lace church vestment worn by altar boys on the statue’s body.

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The private broadcaster TVN24 reported the three men were arrested.

Jankowski, who died in 2010, rose to prominence in the 1980s through his support for the pro-democracy Solidarity movement against Poland’s communist regime. World leaders including President George H.W. Bush and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher visited his church in recognition of his anti-communist activity. (VOA)