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Vatican to honor Mother Teresa

APVatican City, Sept 1998 -
The Vatican announced a extravagant public tribute Thursday for the first anniversary of Mother Teresa's death, including a memorial Mass in St. Peter's Basilica, a TV spectacular from St. Peter's Square and a homage from Pope John Paul II.

The Roman Catholic Church's tribute Saturday - including the Italian TV special from a Vatican hall draped in the blue and white of her saris - offers everything but the speeded-up sainthood that her followers say the extraordinary nun of Calcutta deserves.

Even for Mother Teresa, the Vatican made clear again Thursday, the mandatory five-year waiting period stands.

"Rome has got its rules," sighed Calcutta Archbishop Ivan Dias, at the Vatican for Thursday's news conference outlining the tributes.

Mother Teresa died Sept. 5, 1997, in Calcutta at 87, after a life spent aiding the poor and wretched through her Missionaries of Charity order and other good works.

Italian Cardinal Pio Laghi will preside at Saturday morning's memorial Mass in St. Peter's.

Saturday night's television tribute will feature everyone from U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan to Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat to singers, celebrities and an Italian model, paying her respects to Mother Teresa's own "beauty."

The program will open with remarks from the pope.

In October, John Paul quashed speculation that the church might expedite sainthood for Mother Teresa. Rules signed by the pope himself in 1983 mandate a five-year wait after death before the process of canonization can begin.

"I think it is necessary to follow the normal way," the pope said then.

Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls said Thursday the pope's position is unchanged, despite growing calls from India - where nuns have begun collecting supporting evidence of miracles - and elsewhere to make an exception for Mother Teresa.

"He prefers to apply to everyone the same rules," Navarro-Valls said, and offered solace for the wait.

"Once the whole process begins, maybe the whole thing will be very quick."

Even those devoted to Mother Teresa are divided about sainthood, with some saying the nun wouldn't want the fuss.

The Calcutta archbishop said the most appropriate tribute is a hospital being built in her honor in Tirana, Albania, Mother Teresa's homeland. Supporters hope to get enough donations to open the hospital in 2000, the church's Jubilee Year.

Dias himself sees the calls to sanctify Mother Teresa as "the living voice of the people," similar to the movements of the early saints, before there were rules and waiting periods.

But Mother Teresa's followers are content to wait, if need be, Calcutta's archbishop said.

"She has been venerated, even without a title," he said.

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