Mother Teresa: Saint or Celebrity?

Mother Teresa: Saint or Celebrity?

Mother Teresa: Saint or Celebrity?

Mother Teresa: Saint or Celebrity?


Mother Teresa was one of the most written about and publicised women in modern times. Apart from Pope John Paul II, she was arguably the most advertised religious celebrity in the last quarter of the twentieth century. During her lifetime as well as posthumously, Mother Teresa continues to generate a huge level of interest and heated debate.

Gëzim Alpion explores the significance of Mother Teresa to the mass media, to celebrity culture, to the Church and to various political groups. A section explores the ways different vested interests have sought to appropriate her after her death, and also examines Mother Teresa's own attitude to her childhood and to the Balkan conflicts in the 1980s and 1990s.

This book sheds a new and fascinating light upon this remarkable and influential woman, which will intrigue followers of Mother Teresa and those who study the vagaries of stardom and celebrity culture.


There is no doubt that Mother Teresa was, and is, a media celebrity. Indeed, any Internet Search Engine will confirm that assertion. So, typing Mother Teresa into Lycos produces 1,245,000 hits, which almost pales into insignificance compared with the 4,470,000 hits produced by a Google search. At the same time, there are many books, of varying types and lengths, by and on Mother Teresa. Here, a search on Amazon produces 40 books by Mother Teresa (mostly collections of her speeches/thoughts) and a staggering 519 books on her. As such, one might ask who needs another book.

There are two easy answers to this question. Firstly, Mother Teresa remains an important figure who clearly had an impact, if more often indirectly rather than directly, on the lives of many people. Whatever the Google search indicates, it surely shows that the life of an Albanian nun who worked with the poor in India had resonance across the world. This interest is reflected in the amount of attention this book has received prior to its publication. Indeed, the Guardian, The Times, the Times Higher Education Supplement, the Times of India and the Hindustan Times have all interviewed Dr Alpion and published articles on the book over the last three years. At the same time, he has already been interviewed by, or is booked to appear on, British, European, Balkan, American and Indian TV networks. Secondly, although Mother Teresa has received a great deal of attention, much of this attention amounts to little more than hagiography. Of course, as Dr Alpion makes clear, there are authors who are critical of Mother Teresa but they are in a tiny minority; so of the first 50 hits in Google, only three articles are critical and all are written by Christopher Hitchens. As such, the first claim this book has to make is that it presents a very informed, balanced account, avoiding

1 For comparison, on Google, typing in Princess Diana produces 4,250,000 hits, Adolf Hitler 4,090,000, Robert De Niro 4,790,000, David Beckham 5,150,000, Tony Blair 21,700,000, Michael Jordan 31,000,000, Jesus Christ 28,000,000, the Pope 37,400,000, Michael Jackson 56,300,000, George W. Bush 69,900,000 and God 168,000,000. Make of that what you will. Accessed 26/11/2005.

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