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Relics of St. Thérèse will be at Pope’s general audience in June




I.Media - published on 05/20/23

The reliquary of St. Thérèse of Lisieux will be in Rome to commemorate the 150th anniversary of her birth and the 100th anniversary of her beatification.

The relics of St. Thérèse of Lisieux (1873-1897) and possibly those of her parents, Sts. Louis and Zélie Martin, will be presented at Pope Francis’ general audience in St. Peter’s Square on June 7, 2023, I.MEDIA has learned. This event is part of a grand international tour of the reliquary of this patroness of missions. It will be in Rome from June 6-16 to commemorate the 150th anniversary of Thérèse’s birth (January 2, 1873) and the 100th anniversary of her beatification (April 29, 1923).

The Pontifical College Russicum, an institute in Rome dedicated to the formation of Russian and Ukrainian Catholic priests, was the one to request that the relics of “little Thérèse” come to Rome. “During the preparation of this pilgrimage of the relics, we learned that the Vatican wanted the relics of Thérèse and of Louis and Zélie to be present at the general audience on June 7,” Father Olivier Ruffray, vicar general of the Diocese of Bayeux and Lisieux and administrator of the Sanctuary dedicated to St. Thérèse, explained to I.MEDIA.

Father Ruffray explained that to mark “this exceptional moment,” around 10 people from the Diocese of Lisieux — including political figures — will be present at the audience. They will be accompanied by Bishop Jacques Habert of Lisieux and Bishop Bruno Feillet of the Diocese of Séez, where Thérèse Martin was born.

How this audience will be structured is not yet known, but it is expected that Pope Francis will speak about the saint, as he has said in the past that Thérèse of Lisieux is his favorite saint. “I don’t know the protocol, but if the Vatican has asked for the relics to be at the general audience, there should be a little word about Thérèse and her parents as well,” Father Ruffray said.

A special announcement from the Pope?

Sonia Dumesnil, the person in charge of the Jubilee for the Teresian Sanctuary, shared her enthusiasm about this prospect. “During this preparation, something happened, the information was given to the Pope. Our Bishop [Habert] has just been summoned by the Pope’s Vicar General for the city of Rome [Cardinal De Donatis]. Will there be a special announcement?” she wonders. 

At a general audience in December 2022, a delegation from Lisieux had given the Head of the Catholic Church two letters, containing several proposals: an invitation to come to Lisieux; a request to name Thérèse patroness of the priests of the world; and the publication of an apostolic letter in connection with Thérèse’s Jubilee. The letters have not yet been answered, but the presence of the relics at the audience brings forward “a mystery,” said Dumesnil.

Moreover, although the Russicum is a Jesuit seminary specializing in Eastern theology, as it forms Ukrainians and Russians, this project was born before the outbreak of the war. The initiative has no direct link with the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, as Father Germano Marani, the organizer, confirmed. “The Russicum is a protagonist mainly because Thérèse is its patroness saint,” he explained. However, he added that on this occasion “there will be no lack of prayer for peace.” 

The tour of the reliquary in Rome

After the general audience on June 7, there will be a reception at the French Embassy to the Holy See, to honor the inscription of Thérèse’s dates on UNESCO’s list of anniversaries for the 2022-2023 biennial. A Mass will be celebrated at the Church of St. Louis of the French in Rome, presided over by Cardinal Pietro Parolin, followed by a prayer vigil with around a hundred Carmelites.

While there are several reliquaries of Thérèse of Lisieux, it is the impressive international reliquary, which weighs 250 kg (551 pounds), that will be in Rome. This reliquary, which has made nearly 130 trips to more than 80 countries, is touring Germany, after spending five months in the Philippines. It will be brought from France by truck by a young Italian married couple. It will then be received at a celebration presided over by Cardinal Luis Tagle, Pro-Prefect of the Dicastery for Evangelization, in the Russicum’s Church on June 6.

The reliquary will then travel to various locations in the Eternal City, including disadvantaged Roman parishes, a prison for minors, and the Pontifical University Teresianum. Among the prelates who will preside over the celebrations is Archbishop Claudio Gugerotti, Prefect of the Dicastery for the Eastern Churches and former nuncio to Belarus and Ukraine. On June 16, the Pope’s Vicar for Rome, Cardinal Angelo De Donatis, will preside over a concluding celebration at the Russicum.

“The Pope cannot come to Lisieux”

This pilgrimage is organized around June 9 and 14, which are “two important dates for Thérèse,” Father Ruffray further explained. On June 9, 1895, Thérèse made an “act of offering herself to merciful love,” which marked “a great moment in her life.” On June 14, “as the Lord’s response to her offering, she was ‘transverberated,’ that is, invaded by God’s love — a grace received by some saints like Teresa of Avila or John of the Cross.”

“Since the Pope cannot come to Lisieux, it is Thérèse who finally goes to meet the Pope,” concluded Father Ruffray. The 86-year-old Pontiff is expected in Marseille on September 23, but his visit to France does not include any other stops.

Already in 2007, the relics of the Doctor of the Church Thérèse of Lisieux had done a pilgrimage throughout Italy. They had been offered for veneration by Benedict XVI during the general audience on November 14. In 2006, the urn containing the relics of St. Thérèse of Lisieux was exhibited at the headquarters of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.

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