Do you believe in miracles?
VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Pope John Paul (news - web sites) on Friday formally recognized a miracle attributed to Mother Teresa, speeding the world's most famous nun toward rapid sainthood.
Mother Teresa: One Step Closer To Sainthood
With a ceremony at the Vatican (news - web sites)'s apostolic palace, the pope acknowledged that he believed a young Indian woman's cancer had been cured as a result of her prayers to Mother Teresa, who is now set to be deemed a saint far quicker than is customary.
Friday's move cleared the way for the woman who spent her life helping the poorest of the poor to be beatified on October 19 next year in Rome, Vatican officials said. She will only become a saint once a second miracle is attributed to her after the beatification.
That could take several years but the process is nonetheless moving unusually fast. Mother Teresa died aged 87 on September 5, 1997 and in normal circumstances the beatification process does not begin until five years after the death of a candidate.
However, the pope, signaling his great affection for the diminutive missionary, waived this usual waiting period and allowed work on her possible canonization to begin in 1999.
"Her slender figure was a world emblem of Christian charity last century," the Vatican said on Friday. "Through her example she inspired a vast movement of charitable and social work on behalf of the most marginalized."
The first miracle formally attributed to Mother Teresa concerned Monica Bersa, whose stomach tumor shrank after she prayed to her in 1998, baffling doctors.
"I am fine now. It is all due to the blessings of Mother Teresa," Bersa told Reuters in October in Danogram, some 220 miles north of Calcutta.
A year after the Albanian-born nun's death, Bersa, then 30, held an aluminum medal blessed by Mother Teresa to her stomach and prayed to the her. "The next day, my tumor was gone. Mother Teresa's blessings cured me," said Bersa.
A commission of doctors examined the case and stated that they had no ready explanation in medical science for the cure.
Hundreds of thousands of pilgrims are expected to pour into Rome for the beatification ceremony next year. There had been talk the pope might carry out the beatification in India, but that was ruled out because of his fragile health.
Father Brian Kolodiejchuk, who promoted the cause of Mother Teresa's beatification, said the date was significant because it was not only Mission Sunday, but also the nearest Sunday to the 25th anniversary of Pope John Paul's pontificate.
"I'm sure that Mother Teresa is very happy that this is taking place in this way and in this date," Kolodiejchuk told Reuters Television.
"She had a great love for this Holy Father especially."
A Nobel Peace Prize winner, Mother Teresa set up her order in the slums of Calcutta and made her headquarters in the Indian city for nearly half a century. Her nuns and priests continue her work around the world, including in some formerly communist countries from which she was banned in her lifetime.
The pope enormously admired Mother Teresa and she is thought to be the only woman to have set foot in his Popemobile.
Pope John Paul has declared more saints -- some 465 of them -- than his predecessors in the last four centuries combined. The last canonization was on October 6, when the pope made a saint of Josemaria Escriva de Balaguer, the controversial founder of the conservative Roman Catholic group Opus Dei, before one of the biggest crowds ever to flood the Vatican.