In the News 2010
Agence France Presse

Empire State Building turns down Mother Teresa tribute


Managers of the iconic Empire State Building declined Thursday to commemorate what would have been Mother Teresa’s 100th birthday by lighting white and blue bulbs atop the building.

At nightfall, the lights on top of the 102-story building will instead be red, white and blue in honor of the 90th anniversary of the women’s right to vote in the United States, the managers of the tallest building in New York city said.

In June, building manager Anthony Malkin turned down a request from the Catholic League, a conservative activist group, to light blue and white bulbs to honor the August 26 birth centenary of Mother Teresa, who won the 1979 Nobel Peace Prize for her work with the sick and dying in India.

The lights would represent the colors of Mother Teresa’s religious order.
The skyscraper managers have honored a string of personalities and historic events over the years by changing the colors of the lights atop the building.
The lights were purple and gold for the recent visit of Queen Elizabeth II, red and yellow for the 60th anniversary of the Chinese communist revolution, green for Saint Patrick’s Day, blue for Frank Sinatra’s eyes, and even yellow honoring The Simpsons, the animated TV characters.

“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, Hanukkah, and Christmas,” Malkin said in June.

However, he added, “as a privately owned building, ESB has a specific policy against any other lighting for religious figures or requests by religions and religious organizations.”

Mother Teresa admirers were outraged, and vowed to hold a protest at the foot of the building.

However progressive Catholic activists, including Catholics for Choice, a group that supports abortion rights, supported Malkin’s decision.

New York city tabloids linked the event to Malkin’s failure on Wednesday to halt construction of a nearby skyscraper. “Saint 1, Empire 0 in ‘high’ drama — Teresa’s revenge as council OKs rival skyscraper,” read the New York Post headline.

Several Times Square billboards will be lit in white and blue late Thursday, and blue and white lights have been lit outside Brooklyn city hall since Wednesday honoring the “Saint of the Gutters.”

This article originally appeared in the Agence France Presse.

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