Mother Teresa's 100th birth anniversary was marked in New York's iconic Times Square with billboards and buildings emitting a soft blue light, while the Empire State Building (ESB) — which has honoured a string of personalities and historic events over the years by changing the colours of the lights atop the building — refused to be a part of the global celebrations.

Named the Great White Way, bright neon lights — in the colours of Mother Teresa's Missionaries of Charity — on Thursday lit up the city's celebrations, being organised by the Times Square Advertising Coalition.

The Catholic League, meanwhile, organised a rally to protest against the ESB's refusal to light its top three tiers in white and blue. The main reason, given by the building owner Anthony Malkin, was a policy not to honour religious figures, New York Daily News reported.

“As a privately owned building, the Empire State Building has a specific policy against any other lighting for religious figures or requests by religions and religious organisations,” a statement said. At nightfall on Thursday, the lights on top of the 102-storey building were instead red, white and blue in honour of the 90th anniversary of the women's right to vote in the United States.

The Catholic League, however, previously told PTI that it had evidence that the ESB had lit up on April 25, 2009, in honour of the Salesian Sisters, who are Catholic nuns.

“More people are going to turn out for this [the rally],” said Bill Donahue, head of the Catholic League. “He [Mr. Malkin] will look like the biggest buffoon in New York and maybe in the world.”

New Yorkers were surprised at the ESB's refusal to honour ‘The Saint of the Gutters' since the building has glowed for individuals like Mariah Carey and even TV shows like The Simpsons.

Brooklyn Borough president Marty Markowitz said the Brooklyn Borough Hall was lit up in blue and white. “Borough Hall may not be as tall as the Empire State Building, but it is Brooklyn's oldest public building and one of the oldest in New York City,” he said.

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