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Cardinal unhappy over copyright of Mother Teresa’s sari

Rome, Italy | AFP | The famous white sari with three blue borders worn by saint Mother Teresa has been copyrighted by nuns, and one of the Vatican’s top cardinals is not pleased.

“Holy Mother Teresa of Calcutta is a universal symbol, beloved by believers (and) unbelievers,” said Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins, 85, an ex-prefect of the powerful Congregation for the Causes of Saints.

“It is absurd that taxes will now have to be paid on her sari. It’s the first time I have heard anything like it,” he was quoted as saying by the online version of the Italian weekly Panorama, which hits shop shelves Thursday.

The sari was reportedly recognised as an Intellectual Property of the Missionaries of Charity by the trademarks registry in India on the day the revered Catholic nun was raised to sainthood in September last year.

It means those using images of the sari — in anything from books and films to calenders — will have to pay.

“It certainly does not honour the saint’s memory,” Saraiva Martins said. Panorama added that the news had upset many at the Vatican to the point that Pope Francis may be moved to speak out.

The white sari, now worn by nuns belonging to the Missionaries of Charity throughout the world, is a symbol of purity, while the three blue borders represent poverty, chastity and obedience.

Mother Teresa won the 1979 Nobel Peace Prize and was revered around the world as a beacon for the Christian values of self-sacrifice and charity.

She spent all her adult life in India, first teaching, then tending to the dying poor for decades before her death in 1997 at the age of 87.


One comment

  1. For starters, he was of the view that the Vatican had not fully comprehended the trademark that had been obtained and was confusing it for a copyright. More importantly, he said that the trademark was only to protect against the unfair use of the Saint’s name, design and colour pattern of the saree. The trademark was unique in nature for protecting the distinctive pattern against misuse as the Missionaries were apprehensive about unauthorised commercial activities that could be misunderstood or mistakenly attributed to the Mother’s organisation. Sarkar also clarified that his own law firm had undertaken the IP exercise completely free of cost, pro bono.

    Sarkar’s view could well be debated. But he could also well be right as we came across a Mother Teresa Institute of Management in Preet Vihar, Delhi which had absolutely no connect to the Missionaries! No wonder the Mother and her franchise needs safeguarding.
    Is Mother Teresa a brand? Well, she is a ‘brand’ in what we know of her, who she was and what she did. Once you utter her name, one immediately thinks peace, love and holiness – well, to us that is branding. Her life and her work has left such an impression on the world that keywords and thoughts, her colors and feelings overcome the senses. That is the essence of true branding. God bless!

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