August 26th, 2010
10:18 PM ET

Hundreds rally at Empire State Building to protest refusal to honor Mother Teresa

CNN's Marcia Biggs filed this report from New York:

A few hundred people gathered outside New York's Empire State Building on Thursday evening to protest the building owner's decision not to acknowledge Mother Teresa's birthday.

The Roman Catholic nun, Nobel Prize winner, and champion of the sick and poor would have been 100 years old on Thursday. Some Catholics had asked the building's owner, Anthony E. Malkin, to bathe the building in blue and white lights in honor of the colors of her order, the Missionaries of Charity.

Malkin refused, saying he wanted to avoid setting a precedent for honoring religious figures.

But William Donohue, President of the Catholic League for Civil and Religious Rights, called the move "indefensible... an insult to Catholics."

"Is he that stupid that now he's known as the anti-Mother Teresa elite in New York City?" Donohue said.

Donohue organized the Thursday rally outside the building's entrance, which featured speeches from Jews–including comedian Jackie Mason–Christians, Hindus, and state and city politicians.

"This is going to turn out bigger than it would have been if he'd lit the building," said one protester. "Whether he lights the building or not, she (Mother Teresa) won. We're all here."

While some critics say the rally would have disappointed Mother Teresa, famous for her avoidance of the limelight, a Catholic priest in the crowd said he thought she would think it was "marvelous."

Mother Teresa arrived in India in 1929 and dedicated her life to help those in need, most famously in Calcutta. She died in India in 1997 and was beatified by Pope John Paul II in October 2003.

Donohue said that the Empire State Building had celebrated The Simpsons Movie DVD release, the anniversary of the formation of the People's Republic of China and a recent Mariah Carey album with special lights.

As night fell on New York on Thursday, the iconic skyscraper was lit up in red, white, and blue to honor the anniversary of women's suffrage.

Still, conspicuously absent from the rally were any blue and white saris. Not unlike the way in which they live every day, her own Missionaries of Charity may have preferred to mark her birthday in quieter fashion.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Catholic Church • New York • United States

soundoff (54 Responses)
  1. Mary Grant

    The world is getting healthier when someone can say NO to the Catholic Church.

    At least a lawsuit shedded light (lit up) Mother Theresa's close spiritual adviser, one of the Catholic church's' most notorious convicted pedophile priests.

    Think Church Officials and Donahue are grateful for that? Or do they prefer darkness there?

    I hope there was an outhouse onsite for Donahue and not a clergy abuse victim nearby.

    August 28, 2010 at 4:18 am |
  2. tim

    Former Catholic Sister Says Even Mother Teresa Is a Fraud

    According to Susan Shields, Mother Teresa 'harmed her helpers as well as those they helped.'
    Everyone should read this to know the truth of MT' real life :

    August 27, 2010 at 9:36 pm |
    • CatholicMom


      'Former' sister......? You mean...anti-Catholic, don't you?

      August 28, 2010 at 2:13 pm |
  3. mjr256

    The Catholic League is claiming that 3,000 protesters showed up. I was there. I think it was about 300. And here CNN is saying hundreds. Who do you think is lying. Catholic League discovers freedom triumphs over hate speech at Empire State Building – http://tinyurl.com/24cymef

    August 27, 2010 at 6:08 pm |
  4. ToHoldNothing

    SMC, regardless of if your claim is correct (which it may very well be), the owner is not obligated to show favor or praise to anyone beyond what they feel is appropriate. Don't try to make this a personal issue by saying that they're being prejudiced against Catholics, it just makes you seem paranoid.

    And Luke I'm aware of Hitchens' critique of MT's problematic angle of humanitarianism in the apparent form of practical/pragmatic sadomasochism in order to manifest Jesus Christ's passion in the world.

    August 27, 2010 at 3:34 pm |
  5. Kate

    Out of curiosity ... what on earth does her religion have to do with whether or not she should be given some recognition?

    Does her religion color what she did? Does it make it more worthy of recognition, or less?

    (A Nobel prize doesn't really qualify, since it was the brainchild of that wonderful man who brought us stable high explosives – not exactly something to brag about)

    Why can't people just recognize her for *what* she did, regardless of *why* she did it? So she was a catholic – we're supposed to separate the pedophiles in the catholic church from the church, why can't we separate the Mother Theresa from it too?

    Just sayin'

    August 27, 2010 at 2:54 pm |
    • Luke

      Kate, you can't be rational with these people. They'll just tell you that child molesting priests lost their way or lost god, while the big MT was a true Catholic. My problem with her was that many of the humans that were treated in her hosue of the dying could have been saved if she just took them to the hospital. Many had minor problems, but she chose instead to prepare them for death. Very sick.

      August 27, 2010 at 3:05 pm |
    • ICEMAN


      August 28, 2010 at 11:13 am |
    • NL

      Actually Nobel's high explosives were used more in the building of the modern world than as a weapon of war. Think of the mining industry, the building of the interstate system, etc...

      August 28, 2010 at 12:12 pm |
    • Kate


      That's true – but the name is still inextricably bound with explosives in war too, even if the whole idea of the Foundation was to try and rehabilitate himself after his death.


      To my mind, you're right – the only reason it's an issue is because of her religion.

      I just disagree with "guilt by association". If, as some claim, Mother Theresa *wasn't* the saintly old woman who gave comfort and aid to the poor and sick, then that (as actions) should have been one of the factors in this decision – not, as the ESB people have pretty much said, it being a matter of religion.

      (Of course, it might be that those claims are true, ESB found out or agreed with it, and they just used this as an excuse to not change the lighting as asked, religion being seen as the lesser evil of justifications to use too)

      August 28, 2010 at 12:44 pm |
  6. Vera S.

    Immigrant viewpoint:
    He called the decision to deny Mother Teresa the lighting honor a "crazy idea." "It doesn't make sense, because she was a favorite with everybody," said Cagney, who's originally from Ireland but lives in Queens.

    American viewpoint:
    She was not a favorite with "everybody."
    The U.S. is not a Catholic country. Its integrity and ability to provide incomes and lives that contrast with those in Catholic countries are dependent upon this liberty.
    The attitude that the U.S. is "God's" country and therefore the natural receptacle and defender of prejudice is contrary to law and reason. These people protesting private-property rights are an immigrant clique, with insular, often wrong, ideas about what matters and no concept about the greater context that has for generations created the incomparable opportunities they now assume belong to them–a default effect of the imperfectness of constitutional government. Birth rates, Catholic-directed voting, and union-based economic policies have acted upon descendants of the poor–and saint-worshippers and grown-ups who believe whatever they're told–to replace the role of public law with their dogma.

    August 27, 2010 at 2:44 pm |
  7. Jessie

    Yet another crazy religion trying to force itself on New Yorkers.

    August 27, 2010 at 1:31 pm |
    • ICEMAN


      August 28, 2010 at 11:12 am |
  8. Tony

    It is amazing. Not one photograph in the media did I see of the rally in favor of our Saintly Mother Theresa. It is clear that both the media as well as the owner of the Empire state building, not only have no faith, but will go out of their way to put down faith. It is obvious that the Death Culture is very powerful in New York. What socialist ! There has been more media on the mosque than on the very Christian saint that was amoungst us. Those of us imbued with the Culture-of-Life most pray, pray pray that the devil worshippers see the light and repent.

    August 27, 2010 at 1:22 pm |
    • Ed

      "Culture-of-Life" – is that what you are calling it now? Is this the sam "Culture of Life that brought us the Cursades, the Inquisition, the "Troubles" in Ireland, and the largest child molestaion pattern in history? Hmm interesting take on that culture..
      By the way, as a disclaimer, I think Mother Teresa was an amazing woman, who accomplished amazing things – in India. Perhaps you should ask them to light up the Taj Mahal n Blue and white stripes?

      August 27, 2010 at 2:42 pm |
    • ICEMAN


      August 28, 2010 at 10:54 am |
    • Chicago Terry

      "The largest molestation pattern?" Spend three seconds on the Internet – that would be parents and male relatives, and then public school teachers and employees, who offend at TEN TIMES the rate of all ministers.

      Quick to point out the Crusades – let's see, men who fought for the freedom of Jesusalem and Europe through most of Spain and Portugal when they fell to the Muslims? When Christians wore badges in the street, paid extra taxes, could not own land, and were enslaved in some areas? The last Crusade was indeed a disaster and they were forbidden from that point on.

      Quick to point out the Inquisition – let's see, civil trials held when it was believed that heresy was equal to treason? Whether you agree with that or not, a few hundred people were executed for heresy over five hundred years. BUT thousands were executed, hung or disembowelled for stealing a horse, or cheating on their wives. Many more thousands more were maimed by the loss of a hand for stealing a loaf of bread or a small coin. Justice was a hell of a lot tougher in those days.

      Now, let's talk about the development of hospitals – Catholic, and in fact, developed during the Crusades, when the Crusaders were keeping the roads to Jerusalem safe for pilgrims and set up resting and treatment places for pilgrims. The university system (Catholic). The public education of the masses at no cost to them (Catholic). The preservation of books and writings by the Greeks, Romans, Muslims, etc., hand-written by patient monks, in the "Dark Ages" when the pagans were tearing apart Europe. Watch any historical movie about the plague – who was taking care of the poor and dying? Catholic sisters and brothers. Watch any WWI or WWII movie – who were caring for the wounded in the middle of the combat? Same again.

      Read just a little bit, okay?

      August 31, 2010 at 2:42 pm |
  9. Daniel

    Uh... how much time did Mother Teresa spend doing her charitable mission work in midtown Manhattan?

    Mother Teresa has what to do with the Empire State Building?

    Did Benedict XVI light up the dome of St. Pete's in blue and white for Teresa's birthday? Is anyone protesting there?

    Give me a break! If you want to honor Mother Teresa – GO HELP THE POOR!

    August 27, 2010 at 12:18 pm |
    • One Whose Name Means Beloved of God

      Well said!

      August 28, 2010 at 7:43 pm |
  10. Mike

    Demands and threats. The followers of Abraham do not disapoint our expectations.

    August 27, 2010 at 12:02 pm |
  11. Bea

    For her stance opposing birth control alone, she caused grievous harm to millions worldwide.

    August 27, 2010 at 11:09 am |
    • CatholicMom

      Have you ever thought about the grievious harm done to the lives of millions of murdered babies around the world?

      August 28, 2010 at 2:04 pm |
  12. Reality

    On Mohammed's birthday, the lights in the Empire State building should be extinguished. Ditto for all lights around the world. Such action would reinforce the darkness this womanizing, hallucinating, and warmongering Arab has brought upon the world!!!

    Mother T? Great, gracious, caring lady but the flawed theology of her church has brought too much darkness to the world and therefore light-up ceremonies are not warranted.

    August 27, 2010 at 11:06 am |
    • Kate


      Isn't the concept of "the individual is less important than the group" considering Marxist?

      Just sayin'

      August 27, 2010 at 2:57 pm |
  13. NEON whip

    i heard that she wasn't as saintly as all assume.

    August 27, 2010 at 10:43 am |
  14. ricky

    Mother Theresa was a great example of selfless service,she was a true humanitarian,and should be honored and respected as such...this world dosen't belong to any one group,color,religion,whatever...it belongs to us all,hows about seeing unity in diversity?it can only bring peace!

    August 27, 2010 at 9:01 am |
    • Selfish Gene

      Go first. Paint your house blue.

      August 27, 2010 at 9:33 am |
    • NL

      She raised quite a bit of money, but was well known for never spending on anything she could guilt people into giving to her. Look into the ongoing question of where all the money she raised actually went.

      August 28, 2010 at 12:02 am |
  15. William

    Get used to it. If she had been Islamic than everyone from Holder to Obama would be there.

    August 27, 2010 at 7:51 am |
    • Selfish Gene

      Did you repaint your house blue and white to honor her? Easy to point fingers, hard to live it.

      August 27, 2010 at 9:32 am |
    • Ed

      If Mother Teresa had been Islamic, none of you would have even known of her existence, or would be asking the Empire State to light up in her honor..who do you think you're kidding?

      August 27, 2010 at 2:38 pm |
  16. pinjety

    To Mr. Donohue,
    Let me begin by asking, what does winning have to do with it?
    Do you believe she would have cared to see all the hundreds to thousands who will gather to celebrate her name and maybe donate a few dollars out of guilt or many dollars for the sake of advertising ones own agenda.
    I personally do not believe so.
    I think she would have considered it a victory if all the people who gathered this day, went and helped the sick, the poor, the needy with out any encouragement. she would have considered it a victory if helping one another was a true way of life for all. Sadly it is not Iif you believe that there is a opposing reaction for every positive reaction. Well love's opposite is hate. I truly feel Mother Teresa was as close to a living saint that we might ever know. so to honor today don't gather, instead go spread your abilities around to those who need it.
    food for thought, that's all

    August 27, 2010 at 6:56 am |
  17. SMC

    If you had done your homework, ToHoldNothing, you would have known, contrary to Mr. Malkin's claim, the Empire State Building has honored other religious leaders they just won't honor Catholics. Besides, Nobel Prize winner Mother Teresa has done great things for ALL THE POOR regardless of their creed, culture etc.

    August 27, 2010 at 3:44 am |
    • Ed

      Which religious leaders, exactly, do you know they hafve honored? I know of none. William Donohue is a nutcase, a disgrace ot most of us mainstream Catholics. Malkin is known as the "anti-Mother Teresa elite" only to Donohue and his rabid supporters..

      August 27, 2010 at 2:36 pm |
    • ICEMAN


      August 28, 2010 at 9:00 am |
  18. TheRadicalLiberal

    Why on Earth should the owner of the Empire State Building be asked to honor any religious or political or historical figure and then be the object of a protest for refusing? Another group of whacky Christians who know nothing about constitutional and civil rights.

    August 27, 2010 at 2:06 am |
  19. ToHoldNothing

    Why the Empire State Building? Why not have the Catholic churches across the boroughs pay tribute to their saint in some form or fashion? They have little to no standing to ask a virtually unrelated building to honor their fallen comrade. Impartiality is the price of secular neutrality to religious favors

    August 27, 2010 at 12:36 am |
    • Luke

      There's a lot more to this story than just not recognizing her birthday by lighting up the Empire State Building to honor her. She, believe it or not, was a very controversial figure among a select few – me being one. Do a quick search for Mother Theresa and Christopher Hitchens. Read what he has written about her for years. I think he has a quick documentary out on youtube as well. Then you'll see why.

      August 27, 2010 at 7:25 am |
    • Luke

      There's a lot more to this story than just not recognizing her birthday. She, believe it or not, was a very controversial figure among a select few – me being one. Do a quick search for her and Christopher Hitchens. Read what he said of her. I think he has a quick documentary on youtube as well.

      August 27, 2010 at 7:27 am |
    • Luke

      There's more to this story. She was a very controversial figure among a select few – me being one. Do a quick search to see what Hitchens said of her.

      August 27, 2010 at 7:28 am |
    • Selfish Gene

      Miracles, brought to you by Kodak.

      August 27, 2010 at 9:31 am |
    • BADGUY

      I can't believe people are protesting something like this. What right does the Catholic Church have in telling the owner he has to spend the time and money to honor one of their own? When is the Catholic Church going to realize this is nonsense.

      August 27, 2010 at 11:35 am |
    • ICEMAN


      August 28, 2010 at 8:57 am |
  20. morris wise

    One of the biggest contributors to MT was Charles Keating who gave her millions in money stolen from the poor that she refused to return. When asked about her friendship with Princess Diana and her divorce, MT said it was for the best, millions must have exchanged hands for that blessing. MT afterward campaigned in Ireland against the referendum to lift the constitutional ban on divorce, she speaks with a forked tongue. The over populated poor of Calcutta are swarming in misery since she refused them knowledge about contraception. The tremendous assets of MT could have helped millions escape poverty but she never shared a dime.

    August 26, 2010 at 11:13 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.