Balkan Countries Contest Saint Teresa's Heritage


Balkan countries contest Saint Teresa's heritage

SKOPJE, (APP - UrduPoint / Pakistan Point News -3rd Sep,2016) - When Pope Francis canonises Mother Teresa on Sunday, two Balkan countries will be celebrating the sainthood of a woman they both fiercely claim as their own.

While she is famed for her work with the poor in the Indian city of Kolkata, the late missionary's origins have been hotly disputed in southeastern Europe, where she grew up. Born Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu in 1910 in multi-cultural Skopje -- then part of the Ottoman Empire and now capital of the Republic of Macedonia -- Mother Teresa had an ethnic Albanian mother whose family came from Kosovo.

Her father's roots are more debated: most people, especially in Albania,say he too was ethnically Albanian, although some Macedonians have argued he was a Vlach, another Balkan ethnic group.

The squabble exposes old ethnic rivalries in the Balkans, with neighbours Albania and Macedonia taking competitive pride in the Nobel Peace prize winner -- both countries have statues, roads, hospitals and other monuments in her name.

"Mother Teresa was born in Skopje but she never declared herself a Macedonian," said Albanian historian Moikom Zeqo, author of a study on the nun's links to Albania. She "always spoke about her Albanian origins and her universal mission," Zeqo told AFP.

Macedonians, however, suggest her birthplace is all important. "We call her 'Skopjanka' (citizen of Skopje) because we know she is ours," said Valentina Bozinovska, director of the national commission for relations with religious communities.