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Which is it? Saint Teresa of Calcutta or Mother Teresa of Kolkata

Name change has people confused.

There is confusion over the proper title of Mother Teresa. Her name is appearing in the media as both "Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta" and "Mother Teresa of Kolkata," sometimes written with the word "Mother" and sometimes without. Which is correct?

Deacon Keith Fournier Hi readers, it seems you use Catholic Online a lot; that's great! It's a little awkward to ask, but we need your help. If you have already donated, we sincerely thank you. We're not salespeople, but we depend on donations averaging $14.76 and fewer than 1% of readers give. If you donate just $5.00, the price of your coffee, Catholic Online School could keep thriving. Thank you. Help Now >

Highlights

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The correct title for Mother Teresa is now, "Saint Teresa of Calcutta." The Vatican has confirmed this fact.

The mother is dropped from her official title and is replaced with the title of saint. The city name is spelled "Calcutta."


Here's why so many people are confused.

When a person is recognized as a saint, their former titles mean very little. Popes, Mothers, Fathers, and such are earthly titles which are worth very little when compared to sainthood. One might compare it to an Olympic athlete who wins a gold medal. Suddenly, their high school accomplishments mean little. Or a professor who may have several lower degrees on their wall, but is only referred to as doctor, with the lesser degrees dropped.

As for the name of her city, it is Calcutta. In 2001, Calcutta changed its name to Kolkata to more closely match its native pronunciation. Calcutta was the Anglicized version of the city's name, but the English have been gone for nearly three generations.

Despite the name change, Mother Teresa died in 1997 when the city was still named Calcutta. As a result, the proper name for her is now Saint Teresa of Calcutta.

A good way to understand this is to think of the city of Constantinople. This legendary city is today known as Istanbul. It was previously known as Byzantium. Several saints have "of Constantinople" in their titles. It would make little sense to change these titles to "of Istabul." The saints lived and died when the city was named Constantinople, so their title reflects that fact.

If Calcutta had changed its name to Kolkata before Saint Teresa's earthly passing, she would likely be known as Saint Teresa of Kolkata. However, this is not the case.

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