Salford Cathedral is all set to be one of the top locations for the international tour of the relics of St Therese of Lisieux. The tour, which was last in Guyana, takes in Liverpool, London and, controversially, Wormwood Scrubs during its British leg, before heading off to Tunisia next. So what's the attraction?
St Therese was a French Carmelite nun born in 1873 who died at the age of 24. Her autobiography, 'the life of a soul', was translated into many languages and she is one of the most widely revered saints in the Catholic church. The arrival of her relics in Salford is a major event for Catholics.
She is venerated as a saint for the modern era because she taught that the little things in life, the smallest good deeds, could count towards the saintly life as much as the great deeds of heroic virtue, meaning that holy life was accessible to all. She was also deemed to understand the position of atheists and agnostics and is thus thought to have a wide appeal.
The remains of St Therese's body are kept in Lisieux. The relics in the tour consist of some of her limbs encased in an ornate coffin, or reliquary, weighing 132kg (a gift from the Catholics of Brazil). The reliquary is encased in perspex. For security reasons and for reasons of respect two people will be with the relics at all times.
When asked if some people might consider the veneration of a saints bones unusual, Canon Tony McBride of Salford Cathedral responded that according to the teaching of the Catholic Church it has nothing to do with superstition and is all about relationship. In the same way fans of Michael Jackson might like to see a glove or other artefact belonging to the star, Catholics build up a sense of relationship through coming into contact with artefacts.
Christians believe that all good Christian people from all eternity are joined in one family under God. Seen in this way, venerating the relics is like visiting the grave of a loved one or keeping a lock of their hair, as in Victorian times.
According to Canon McBride there are 240,000 Catholics in the diocese of Salford which extends into Lancashire. Whilst in the municipal area of Salford he estimates there are 25,000 Catholics divided between 28 parishes. The hosting of the remains of St Therese in Salford is likely to attract many non Catholics too, as she is venerated by Muslims as well as people from the Church of England.
The Relics of St Therese arrive at Salford Cathedral on Friday 25th of September and will be in situ until Sunday 27th.
Photos courtesy of www.catholicrelics.co.uk