Mother Teresa has been made a saint by Pope Francis. Though Germans who spoke to DW lauded the move, many acknowledged that her relevance has faded somewhat with time.
Tens of thousands of people attended Mass at the Vatican on Sunday to watch Pope Francis make Mother Teresa a Catholic saint. A divisive figure, the Albanian-Indian missionary won praise for her dedication to helping the world’s most destitute while also facing criticism for some of her medical practices and what some skeptics have called her “cult of suffering.”
As in other countries, the ceremony was heavily covered in Germany, a nation with strong ties to the Catholic Church, but where – as across Europe – religion has been said to be in relative decline.
For the Germans who spoke to DW in front of the famous Bonn Minster Catholic Church on Sunday, Mother Teresa’s canonization was commendable. Yet many of the younger Germans said they knew few details about the woman’s life or work, noting that they had not heard much about Mother Teresa while they were growing up.
‘Not as present’
Kai Nörthemann, 43, a development engineer from Berlin, hailed Mother Teresa’s service in India, where she built her reputation working in the slums of Calcutta, as Kolkata was known then. “She did a lot of good things,” Nörthemann said, downplaying the criticism that has been leveled at her over the years. “Being against something is easy. Being for something is more difficult,” he said.
But even Nörthemann acknowledged that Mother Teresa’s reputation had been diminished somewhat. “She’s not as present, but nonetheless she remains an example of warmheartedness,” he said.
Jörg and Gudrun Levermann, a couple also from the Berlin area, had similar positive things to say about Mother Teresa, noting all the work that she had done around the world. Yet even though she was equally enthusiastic about Mother Teresa’s canonization – especially from a feminist perspective – Yara, their daughter, said the famed nun wasn’t as familiar to her.
“She isn’t talked about that much,” Yara said. “It’s really a shame.”
Matter of age?
For 71-year-old Walburga Schlarmann, Mother Teresa was “an example” for humanity who had earned her sainthood through years of hard work and dedication. She said young people in Germany probably thought of the woman as an obscure historical figure. “Maybe they know too little about her,” she said.
When asked what they thought of her, Amelie Brübach and Verena Holfert, both 24, had a difficult time responding. “We’ve heard of her, but we don’t really know her background or what she really did or why she’s considered holy,” said Brübach, a PR trainee who lives in Bonn. Neither she nor Holfert, a visiting student, could put a finger on exactly why.
“It’s a generational difference,” Holfert said simply.