Although the Empire State Building's owners have declined to illuminate the skyscraper in honor of the late Mother Teresa's 100th birthday, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn is calling for New Yorkers to remember the extraodinary woman's life by committing to volunteer and lighting a candle in homes and businesses across the city on Aug. 26.
“The Empire State Building does not have final say on how Mother Teresa’s life should be honored. That’s why we in the Council are inviting all New Yorkers on August 26th, light up their own windows, homes, businesses in blue and white as a tribute to her. If you can’t light up your home then we ask that you take part of that morning, afternoon, or evening and give back to those who are less fortunate," said Quinn in a statement today.
Catholic League President Bill Donohue denounced the Empire State Building's owners in an Associated Press article.
"They're bigots!" Donohue said. "They have an animus against Catholics!''
He said his advocacy group requested that the building glow on Aug. 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.
But Empire State Building owner Anthony Malkin said it is standing by its decision.
"The Empire State Building celebrates many cultures and causes in the world community with iconic lightings, and has a tradition of lightings for the religious holidays of Easter, Eid al Fitr, Hanukah, and Christmas, Anthony E. Malkin of Malkin Holdings said.
"As a privately owned building, ESB has a specific policy against any other lighting for religious figures or requests by religions and religious organizations,” he said.
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.
Although she's 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.
Illuminating the 102-story high-rise on Fifth Avenue in different colors to mark an important date, cause or personality is a New York tradition. The building is color-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.
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 Co., which is privately owned and considers selection ``a privilege, not an entitlement,'' according to the website with the application form.
A decision is made "at the sole discretion of the (company's) ownership and management.''