No honour for Mother Teresa

2010-06-09 14:09

New York - New York City's Empire State Building said "yes" to Mariah Carey, dog shows, cancer charities - and even the 60th anniversary of communist China.

But the landmark skyscraper's owners have declined to illuminate it in honour of the late Mother Teresa.

"They're bigots! They have an animus against Catholics!" Catholic League President Bill Donohue told the Associated Press on Tuesday.

He said his lay advocacy group requested that the building glow on August 26 for the centennial of the late Nobel Peace Prize winner's birth. The request was denied in an unsigned, faxed letter, Donohue said, "and they never gave an explanation".

He said Empire State Building officials were "stonewalling" not only the Catholic League, but also the media and members of New York's City Council.

Now, another prominent New York Catholic is voicing her outrage.

Building’s owner not talking

City Council Speaker Christine Quinn told the AP that she spoke on Tuesday with Empire State Building owner Anthony Malkin.

Although the real estate mogul was "very professional" and said he "would reflect on the points I made," she said, he didn't give her a satisfactory answer.

She told the AP the answer should be "yes to Mother Teresa."

Telephone messages left for building spokesperson Melanie Maasch were not returned Tuesday. The telephone at Malkin Holdings, Malkin's Manhattan-based company, rang unanswered late on Tuesday afternoon.

In New York, Mother Teresa helped open a pioneering hospice for Aids patients in Manhattan's Greenwich Village.

"Her impact on the world was so much greater than one religious group," Quinn said.

Example of moral fortitude

Although she was Catholic, the Democratic City Council speaker has often disagreed with the religiously traditional League on issues such as gay marriage. Quinn is openly gay.

But when it comes to the iconic skyscraper and the ethnic Albanian nun who worked in India, she backs the League.

Meanwhile, Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez released a statement saying he and Councilman Peter Vallone plan to introduce a resolution at a City Hall press conference and rally on Wednesday calling on the building to honour Mother Teresa.

"Although we may not universally agree on all of her opinions and actions, Mother Teresa was undoubtedly an example of moral fortitude and self-sacrifice that we can all learn from," said Rodriguez.

Illuminating the 102-story high-rise on Fifth Avenue in different colours to mark an important date, cause or personality is a New York tradition. The building is colour-decorated for religious holidays such as Christmas and Hanukkah and other special occasions.

"They offer a tribute to the communist Chinese, but say no to Mother Teresa," said Donohue.

Application form needed

Last year, Tibetans and others protested on September 30 when the top of the landmark building was illuminated in red and yellow lights to mark the 60th anniversary of the People's Republic of China.

For Mother Teresa, the building would glow in blue and white in the New York night - the colours of her Missionaries of Charity order.

Mother Teresa died in 1997, at 87, and was beatified by the Roman Catholic Church - a step toward possible sainthood.

Requesting a lighting display involves filling out an application evaluated by the Empire State Building Company, which is privately owned and considers selection "a privilege, not an entitlement", according to the website with the application form.