CALCUTTA, India, SEPT. 7, 2001 (Zenit.org).- Mother Teresa of Calcutta did not undergo the rite of exorcism, says Archbishop Henry D´Souza of Calcutta, denying statements attributed to him by the international press.
Rather, a priest was simply asked to pray over her during a trouble period in 1996, the archbishop said.
Speaking to the Catholic agency UCA News, the archbishop said that the faulty news of the exorcism was due to a conversation he had with reporters, who asked if holy people can experience abandonment by God.
He told the story of Mother Teresa, while she was in the Woodlands Hospital in 1996. She was found to be very perturbed, suffering from doubts and profound fears. She was hospitalized because of heart problems, and was unable to sleep.
Archbishop D´Souza thought that perhaps an evil spirit was trying to steal her interior peace and confidence in God. So he asked Father Rosario Stroscio, 79, a Salesian priest of Sicilian origin, to pray over her, with a prayer used for exorcisms. However, it was not an exorcism as such.
This story led news agencies to report Wednesday that Archbishop Souza told the Salesian: “You command the devil to go if he´s there. In the name of the Church, as archbishop, I command you to go and do it.”
On Thursday, however, the archbishop clarified: “I did not think she was possessed by an evil spirit.”
Father Stroscio said that the archbishop requested him to pray for Mother Teresa, but he clarified that the religious was not possessed by an evil spirit but only perturbed.
The priest continued: “She did not say the prayer with me, as she seemed to be laboring under some distress, but the nuns around her were aware of what was going on.”
The priest said he left the hospital room after reciting “the prayer of exorcism to drive out evil spirits.” The next day, the nuns who took care of Mother Teresa told him that she slept peacefully the rest of the night.
The archbishop explained that the incident does not call into question the holiness of the religious. In fact, episodes like this are common in the lives of saints and mystics — for instance, Don Bosco or John Vianney — who were also “troubled by evil spirits during their lifetime,” he said.
The incident simply reflects the “human dimension in a saint, which is quite normal,” the archbishop added.
The diocesan phase of Mother Teresa´s process of beatification, entrusted to Archbishop D´Souza, concluded Aug. 15. The investigation has passed to the Vatican Congregation for the Causes of Saints.
Mother Teresa, who was born in Macedonia, arrived in India in 1937. Fifty-two years ago she founded the Congregation of the Missionaries of Charity. She died Sept. 5, 1997.