Mother Teresa of Calcutta, one of the most iconic figures of the 20th century, is set to become a Catholic saint on Sunday, in an open-air Mass led by Pope Francis due to attract hundreds of thousands of the faithful.

Born Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu in 1910, in Skopje, Macedonia, the ethnic Albanian Teresa helped the poor in India for most of her life. She founded the Missionaries of Charity in 1950 and gained worldwide recognition for her work, including a Nobel Peace Prize in 1979.

"The canonization of Mother Teresa invites us to look to her as a Christian hero, an outstanding model of the Christian life," the Canadian priest who promoted her sainthood cause, Father Brian Kolodiejchuk, said in March.

Teresa was a revered figure throughout the world, but not universally liked. Her hardline opposition to abortion and contraception, as well as readiness to accept donations from dictators, have been a matter of controversy.

Private letters published after her death in 1997 also revealed that for the last 50 years of her life she despaired over having lost a personal connection with Jesus, while she continued steadfastly to serve his cause.

Her canonization is one of the highlights of Francis' Jubilee of Mercy, a Catholic festival running until November 20. Kolodiejchuk said the timing was "fitting," given the pope's own focus on the destitute.

In a preface to a book on the soon-to-be saint, published in July, Francis recalled how giving to the needy is a key Christian teaching. "Mother Teresa made this page of the Gospel the guide for her life and the path to her holiness — and it can be for us, as well."

The pope will lead a Mass in St Peter's Square during which he will be asked three times, in Latin, to add Teresa to the pantheon of Catholic saints, whose number is unspecified but runs to the several thousands, at least.

Sainthood will be officially recognized as soon as Francis responds to the three petitions, still in Latin.

"We declare and define Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta be a Saint and we enroll her among the Saints, decreeing that she is to be venerated as such by the whole Church. In the name of the Holy Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit," he is expected to say.

Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj and other dignitaries from Teresa's adopted nation are scheduled to attend the Mass.

Several events are planned in the run up to the ceremony, including a prayer vigil on Friday, an audience in St Peter's Square with Francis on Saturday morning, followed in the evening by a veneration of Teresa's relics in a Roman basilica outside of the Vatican.

As the canonization falls on the eve of Teresa's feast day, which marks the anniversary of her death on September 5, 1997, there are expected to be more celebrations and religious services on Monday and later on in the week.

On September 7-8, pilgrims will be allowed to visit the room Teresa used on visits to Rome, in the convent of the Church of San Gregorio Magno near the Colosseum, where her Missionaries of Charity have a local branch.

Latest news

Syrian opposition rules out future role for President al-Assad

The Syrian opposition said Friday it would not accept any role for President Bashar al-Assad in the future of the war-torn country, reacting to a recent US shift saying that removing al-Assad is no longer a priority for Washington.

Russian Army integrates breakaway forces of Georgian province

Parts of the small fighting forces of the Georgian breakaway province of South Ossetia have been placed under Russian military control, Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said on Friday.

Czech Republic's Pilsner Urquell beer is now Japanese

Japanese brewing company Asahi completed its takeover of the Czech brewery Pilsner Urquell on Friday, Asahi said in a statement.

Judge approves 25-million-dollar settlement of Trump University case

A US district judge on Friday approved a 25-million-dollar settlement of lawsuits and state fraud allegations against Trump University, the US president's now-defunct business venture.

Former Thai premier Thaksin to junta on reconciliation: 'Cut me out'

Former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra on Friday announced that he is not interested in the junta-led reconciliation process, three days after the junta handed him a half-a-billion-dollar tax bill for his past business deal.

Dalic: We welcome possible deal between Agrokor and banks

The government welcomes the possibility of an agreement being concluded between the Agrokor food company and creditor banks, and the bill on vitally important companies is not a fallback plan but the result of the government's care for the overall economic and financial stability of Croatia, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economy Martina Dalic told a press conference in Zagreb on Friday.

Croatia, China sign action plan for cooperation in agriculture

The Croatian and Chinese ministries of agriculture on Friday signed an action plan for cooperation in the field of agriculture for the period 2017-2018, the Croatian ministry said in a statement.

ZSE indices up, Agrokor shares in focus of investor interest

The Zagreb Stock Exchange (ZSE) indices on Friday rose by more than 1.8%, with stocks of the Agrokor food and retail concern being in the focus of investor interest again.

Berlin police defend handling of Berlin market attacker

Berlin police defended themselves on Friday against accusations that they stopped surveillance on Berlin Christmas market attacker despite knowing in June 2016 he was dangerous.

Croatia, creditors tailor emergency measures to save tottering giant

Croatia's tottering retail and food giant Agrokor reached an agreement with its creditors, putting its debts standby and allowing it to continue working during emergency restructuring, the Croatian branch of Austria's Erste Bank said Friday.

Agrokor's creditors say standstill agreement to go into force today

A standstill agreement regarding the Agrokor concern's existing financial obligations to banks will take effect on Friday, additional capital will be injected into the concern in the coming days and the concern will be actively restructured, which includes a change of its management, it was said on Friday after a meeting between Agrokor's suppliers and creditor banks.

Palestinians, UN slam Israel's new settlement plan

Palestinians, Israeli activists and the UN lambasted the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday, a day after it gave the go-ahead for the first new West Bank settlement in a quarter of a century.

South Sudan rebels release three abducted foreign oil workers

South Sudanese rebels have released three foreign engineers they abducted in early March in the oil-rich Upper Nile region, Foreign Affairs Ministry official Mawein Makol Arik said on Friday.

Turkish opposition: Imprisoned party chief has gone on hunger strike

The head of Turkey's pro-Kurdish opposition party has launched a hunger strike from prison.

European leagues threaten Champions League schedule clashes

The European Professional Football Leagues (EPFL) on Friday threatened schedule clashes on Champions League matchdays in an ongoing dispute with the governing body UEFA.

Danish court revokes citizenship of IS volunteer

A Danish appellate court on Friday stripped a man of his Danish citizenship for volunteering to fight for the extremist Islamic State in Syria.

Banks and Agrokor agree on key elements of standstill agreement

Member banks of the coordinating committee of financial creditors and representatives of the Agrokor food company have in principle agreed on key elements of a standstill agreement, which is expected to be signed later today, announcing changes in the company's management team, Erste Bank said in a statement on Friday afternoon.

Syrian man on trial in Sweden; mosque attack labelled terrorism

A Syrian man went on trial Friday in the southern Swedish city of Malmo, charged with terrorism and arson after an attack last year on a building used as an assembly hall by Shiite Muslims.