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Wednesday, 23 May, 2001, 19:02 GMT 20:02 UK
Saint Therese relics arrive in NI
The casket was taken into the cathedral
The casket was taken into the cathedral
The relics of Saint Therese have arrived in Northern Ireland in what is the biggest religious sensation in Ireland since the Pope visited over 20 years ago.

The relics of the 19th Century French saint, are on a 75-day tour of the country, and have already generated huge crowds at churches and cathedrals in the Republic of Ireland.

Thousands of people gathered in Newry to see the casket.

An RUC escort was waiting at the border outside Newry when the remains arrived there on Wednesday.

They were taken to St Patrick's and St Colman's cathedral in the centre of the town.

More than 1,000 people were waiting inside as the relics contained in a casket covered by perspex were carried inside by six parishioners.

The casket containing the remains of Saint Therese will then travel to St Peter's church in Lurgan on Thursday and on to St Patrick's Catholic Cathedral in Armagh on Friday.

Saint Therese
The future Saint Therese at 15
On Sunday it will travel to St Peter's Cathedral in Divis and on Monday it will be at Clonard Monastery on the Falls Road in west Belfast.

It will then be in Ardoyne in north Belfast next Tuesday before travelling to Londonderry to St Eugene's Cathedral next Wednesday.

The relics are being transported in a specially built van, the Theresemobile, and will arrive at each destination at 1400 BST, and remain for 22 hours before travelling onwards.


The tour has sparked some controversy with visits to one of the Irish Republic's biggest jails.

Prisoners at Mountjoy Prison in Dublin were given the chance to venerate the relics and women prisoners held an all night vigil in the presence of the casket on Tuesday.

St Therese is traditionally associated with roses. When she died, she is believed to have said, "I let fall a shower of roses."

As a result, roses have come to be associated with the granting of favours, cures, or relief from suffering.

Many people queuing up to see the relics outside churches have carried roses which they have pressed against the brass and mahogany sides of the casket as they file past. Some stop to kiss the casket, and repeat prayers to St Therese.

In 1896: Therese had already been sick for several months
In 1896: Therese had already been sick for several months

From the front seat of the Theresemobile, the tour's national co-ordinator Father Linus Ryan mans three mobile phones and holds press conferences on the road.

"We're into our second million half way through the tour," he said.

"There is a mass movement of the Irish population everywhere we go, which has to be supernatural in origin. She has got a supernatural magnetism."

Father Ryan admitted that before the tour began he was concerned that after years of rapid economic growth Ireland might be losing touch with religion.

Now he is drawing the opposite lesson.

"We have to conclude that material things are not giving people what they hoped for," he said.

"There is a great spiritual hunger out there."

Although fans of St Therese know her best for her association with roses, some of her followers are anxious to use the tour to show her off in a modern light.

Her autobiography has been revised, to undo some of the changes that had been made to it over the years.

When the relics leave Ireland at the end of the June, they will return to France before going on to Lebanon.

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