Mother Teresa’s Missionaries Made Possible the Return of Religious Freedom in Cambodia
Interview with PIME’S Father Cervellera. Mother Teresa’s Missionaries Made Possible the Return of Religious Freedom in Cambodia
Father Bernardo Cervellera of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions (PIME) and Director of Asia News agency, pointed out in a recent working breakfast — and today to ZENIT –, that Mother Teresa of Calcutta was an exemplary daughter of Vatican Council II, because she was able to combine the Tradition of the Church with the active life.
“After Vatican Council II there was a break in the Church between the Church’s social commitment, social activism and let us say this way, the traditionalism that tried to defend their identity as if the two things excluded one another mutually,” explained the missionary.
Instead, Mother Teresa was able to be “a true daughter of Vatican Council II, because she put both things together” – the active life and the Tradition of the Church – in the same way that John Paul II and Benedict XVI did and also Pope Francis.”
Father Cervellera pointed out that the Sisters of Charity succeeded in combining their service to the fringes with the usual piety so that when one arrives at their houses “an atmosphere of great devotion is breathed; Rosaries are seen, the Miraculous Medal, the novena to Saint Joseph, the Novena with the Memorare, etc. and all the very dear old practices of the Church.”
The priest said he was three times with the Catholic nun of Albanian origin, naturalized Indian: once in Calcutta, a second time in Hong Kong, and a third in Milan’s Eucharistic Congress.
He highlighted the austerity with which the nuns live of the Order founded in 1950 by Mother Teresa: each one of them has only two tunics or habits. When they use one, they launder the other by hand, because they do not use a washing machine. They do not use hot water, have no showers or central heating.
And although this might frighten us Westerners, Father Cervellera reminds us that “almost all people in the world live like this. In China, as in many countries, they don’t have hot water and sometimes no water.”
PIME’s missionary knew the Sisters of Charity up close, including in Cambodia and he recalled that in that country “through them the path of religious freedom was reopened, because after the Khmers Rouges, the Church no longer existed. Mother Teresa’s nuns were invited to look after the sick, and abandoned children. A PIME priest became the chaplain of their Institute.
The Missionaries of Charity are a religious Order distinguished for their work in the fringes with unimaginable individuals and places, with some 4,500 nuns in more than 133 countries, who in addition to the three vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, make a fourth vow of “free and heartfelt service to the poorest of the poor.”
Despite the rigor of their life, this Religious Family continues to grow. In 1963 the Brothers of the Missionaries of Charity wee born, and a contemplative branch was created in 1976. Then, in 1984, together with Father Joseph Langfor, Mother Teresa founded the Missionary Fathers of Charity.