British Sociologist reflects on the Saint he has followed with interest
By Michael Ireland, Senior Correspondent, ASSIST News Service (www.assistnews.net)
VATICAN CITY (ANS, Sept. 12, 2016) – “From what I saw at St Peter’s Square on September 4, for the devout Catholics and friends of Mother Teresa worldwide the canonization was a hugely important event. They were happy that their idol finally received the highest posthumous recognition from the Holy See,” writes Gëzim Alpion, (BA Cairo, PhD Durham, UK), Sociology Admissions Director at The University of Birmingham in the United Kingdom.
“The canonization is very symbolic also for the Vatican especially now that the Jubilee Year is coming to an end. Mother Teresa is the epitome of Christian charity worldwide. I don’t think the Vatican could have found a more suitable person to declare a saint during this important year,” Alpion said in an exclusive report for ASSIST News Service (www.assistnews.net).
“One should not forget the fact that the canonization of Mother Teresa is important also in an Indian context. With her work and legacy, which are important for its symbolism rather than any direct impact on changing Calcutta or India, Mother Teresa is probably the most important person for the Vatican in India since Apostle Thomas in the first century.”
Alpion said Mother Teresa’s canonization “is hugely symbolic also for her fellow Albanian nation that has given the church at least four Popes and a number of saints and martyrs. It’s very sad, however, to see that the Albanian Catholic Community in Mother Teresa’s native Skopje is becoming extinct.”
Alpion said he was impressed to see a very large number of people from around the world. “While the majority obviously were Catholics, I did meet with quite a number of people who did not adhere to Catholicism. Mother Teresa again had the power to bring together people from all faiths, or none, all races and ethnicities and nations.”
He added: “The flags being waved at the Square on the canonization day were a good way of telling where the people had hailed from. There were flags from countries from the five continents. I could not help noticing especially the Albanian flag unique for its double-headed eagle in a red background. The number of the Albanian flags showed that Mother Teresa’s fellow Albanians were determined to show their respect for, and pride in, their famous compatriot.”
Alpion was especially impressed to see a Chinese flag. “I was also impressed to see people of all age groups from babies to very old people, some of them in very poor health.”
The interest of the world media also was enormously high, he said.
“As a social scientist, the spectacle on September 4 has given me more food for thought on the role of religion nowadays.”
Alpion states that Mother Teresa “was a tough woman who was keen to find God, although that proved a lifelong challenge for her because of the extraordinary level of the dark night of the soul she experienced, in my view, since she lost her father in mysterious circumstances when she was nine years old.”
According to Alpion, Mother Teresa was a woman who had stamina, integrity and a vision for the future of Christianity in India when that country was changing dramatically in the 1940s. Different from other Western missionaries, Mother Teresa believed that they had to leave their comfortable compounds and take Jesus into the slums of Calcutta, he said.
“Mother Teresa was a friend of the poor and of the rich as she believed that both parties need God. Mother Teresa was also a woman of utmost integrity. She remained loyal to the end to the poor and saw human dignity as sacred.”
He continued: “As I mentioned above, the Holy See could not have found a more appealing person to canonize at this point in time. My concern, however, is that now that Mother Teresa has been declared officially a saint, there could be people who may pay too much attention to the halo and ignore Mother Teresa the human being, the woman behind this public nun, the humanitarian who earned the accolade of a living saint in her lifetime precisely because she believed that one can and should do something to lend a helping hand to the poorest of the poor, especially to those in the final moments of their wretched existence in this heartless world. With her faith in action, Mother Teresa reminded human race of the best in us.”
Prior to joining the Department of Sociology at the University of Birmingham in 2002, Gëzim Alpion lectured at the University of Huddersfield, Sheffield Hallam University, Westhill College of Higher Education and Newman University College. Gëzim joined the Department of Political Science and International Studies in August 2010.
Alpion specializes in the sociology of success, religion, race, ethnicity, film, media and authorship. His books include “Foreigner Complex” (2002), “Mother Teresa: Saint and Celebrity?” (2007), and “Encounters with Civilizations: From Alexander the Great to Mother Teresa” (2009). Gëzim is currently developing the idea of ‘fame capital’ as a variable in an intranational and international context, and exploring the significance of Mother Teresa’s ‘dark night of the soul’ in a post-modernist context.
Alpion is Fellow of the Institute for Advanced Research in Arts and Social Sciences, University of Birmingham, since 2000, and Member of Max Weber Study Group of the British Sociological Association.
Alpion has presented papers at prestigious national and international conferences and has delivered keynote addresses, lectures and talks at several universities in the United Kingdom and overseas: the USA, Canada, Australia, Russia, China, India, South Africa, Germany, Italy, Finland, Macedonia, Kosova and Albania.
He has written features on British, Egyptian, Middle Eastern, Balkan and Indian politics, culture and identity for “The Guardian,” “The Middle East Times,” “The Birmingham Post,” “The Huddersfield Daily Examiner,” and “Hürriyet Daily News.”
He is regularly interviewed by local, national and international media for his expertise.
Dr. Alpion may be contacted at The University of Birmingham, in Edgbaston, Birmingham B15 2TT, UK.
Tel (office) +44 (0)121 414 3241
Mobile +44 (0) 787 651 2001
Fax: +44 (0) 121 414 3496
Photo Captions: 1) Gezim Alpion in Rome for the Canonization of Mother Teresa (Submitted Photo – Gezim Alpion). 2) Part of the crowd scene in Vatican City (Submitted Photo – Gezim Alpion). 3) Portrait of Mother Teresa in St. Peter’s Square. (Submitted Photo – Gezim Alpion). 4) Michael ireland.
About the Writer: Michael Ireland is a volunteer internet journalist serving as Senior Correspondent for the ASSIST News Service, as well as an Ordained Minister who has served with ASSIST Ministries and written for ASSIST News Service since its beginning in 1989. He has reported for ANS from Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Israel, Jordan, China, and Russia. Please consider sponsoring Michael in bringing news of the Persecuted Church, log-on to: https://actintl.givingfuel.com/ireland-michael
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