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Page last updated at 15:32 GMT, Friday, 11 September 2009 16:32 UK
St Thérèse relics in York

The relics of St Thérèse in York Minster
Thousands came to York Minster to pay their respects

York Minster was the only non Roman Catholic cathedral to welcome the relics of St Thérèse of Lisieux in October of 2009.

During the 18 hours of the visit, the Minster became a centre for pilgrims of all Christian traditions, and remained open over night.

The relics, contained in a decorated casket, are in England and Wales from 16 September to 16 October 2009 at the invitation of the Roman Catholic Bishops of England and Wales.

Thérèse of Lisieux is one of the major saints of the Roman Catholic Church, and many Christians of other traditions and denominations are influenced by her writings and her life. Dying aged just 24, she is one of only three women recognised as 'Doctors of the Church'.

St Thérèse of Lisieux in 1896.
The relics of St Thérèse were in York for just 18 hours

The Dean of York, the Very Reverend Keith Jones, says, "I am thrilled that the relics of St Thérèse, the Little Flower, are coming to York Minster, at the request of the Catholic Bishops' Conference. She is a gift of God to us all and this is a chance for Christians of different traditions to pray for unity and renew our faith and our love."

Who was St Thérèse

Born in 1873, Thérèse Martin was the youngest of nine children. Her parents were devout but the family was struck by tragedy.

Four of the children died in childhood and Thérèse's mother died when she was just four.

Her elder sister, Pauline, became a Carmelite nun and Thérèse herself developed a vocation at a very early age.

Initially refused entrance into a convent because of her age, she petitioned her local Bishop and then Pope Leo XIII, when she went on pilgrimage to Rome.

She was finally admitted to a Carmelite convent aged just 15 in 1888. The young girl soon found herself at home there, both emotionally and spiritually.

St Thérèse had a particular fondness for nature, hence the name by which she is often known, "the Little Flower".

As her health failed her she was encouraged to write an account of her life, "The Story of a Soul." Published shortly after her death in 1897 it has proved remarkably popular with people of all faiths and nationalities.

Unusually she was canonised in 1925, less than 30 years after her death in 1897.

What is a relic?

A relic can be either a part of the physical remains of a holy person after his or her death, or an object which has been in contact with his or her body.

The veneration of relics is found in many religions and is rooted in the natural human instinct to treat with reverence anything connected with those we love who have died.

St Thérèse at 15.
St Thérèse developed a vocation at a very early age

By venerating the relics of saints, some Christians believe that they are honouring God who has made the person holy. The relics of St Thérèse of Lisieux are contained in a closed casket with a glass canopy over the top.

St Thérèse in York

The relics were greeted at the Minster's west door at 6.00pm on Thursday 1 October, which is St Thérèse's feast day, and taken in procession to the east end.

There they were placed on a dais in the Lady Chapel area and made accessible for the public to make their devotions.

The Very Reverend Canon Michael Ryan of St Wilfrid's Roman Catholic Church, York, says, "Thérèse prayed during her short life that her mission to spread the love of Jesus would cover the whole earth, and in the last few years we have seen that prayer answered as her relics have travelled the globe.

"Her visit to York Minster is a great gift to the whole Church in Yorkshire, and I pray that Christians of all traditions will come together here to celebrate."

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