The remains of St. Therese of Lisieux, a Carmelite nun canonized by Pope Pius XI and proclaimed Doctor of theChurch by Pope John Paul II, arrived in Israelon Monday, 14th of March on a flight from Brussels. The remains and accompanyingdelegation were greeted at Ben Gurion InternationalAirport by the Vatican's Ambassador to Israel, Apostolic Nuncio AntonioFranco, Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal from the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem,and the Head of the Department for Religious Affairs of the Ministry of ForeignAffairs, Ambassador Bahig Mansour. "This is an event of faith and an eventof devotion that aims at helping the people to become better and to live in abetter way, in their social life, in their community life, in their spirituallife," said Franco.
The Bishop of the LatinPatriarchate of Jerusalem, William Shomali, commended the Israeli InteriorMinistry’s Christian Department, who helpedfacilitate the itinerary. “They understood this is about spirituality andpeace, and not politics,” he told the Associated Press.
Upon arrival, the remains of theSaint, who died at the age of 26, in 1897, and who in life was not able to makethis pilgrimage, were transported to the Apostolic Residence, from where theywill continue on Wednesday to the Co-Cathedralof the Latin Patriarchate. The relics will then circulate for nearly two months between variousChristian communities in Israel,the Palestinian Authority and the Gaza Strip, becoming in effect “a bridge ofpeace,” according to Shomali. From the capital, they will be taken to theChurch of the Madonna of Mount Carmel in Haifa, the place where the Carmelite order towhich Saint Therese belonged, originated. On the day of the Annunciation, March25, they will be in Nazareth and the pilgrimage will culminate during the HolyWeek when the relics will be in Bethlehem and later again in the Holy City, inthe places of Jesus’ Passion. The pilgrimage will include many cities in theGalilee and Palestine.
All this required a verycomplicated and scrupulous organization, which is an excellent example offreedom of religion in Israel,as stressed by the Israeli Ambassador to the Holy See, Mr. Mordechay Lewy."This is a logistically complicated undertaking, as security checks inairports, on the plane and at arrival must be carefully prepared in advancewith the highest standards of showing respect”, he said.
Director of the Christian Departmentat the Interior Ministry, Cesare Marjieh called the event “nearlyunprecedented,” and compared its importance to that of a Pontifical visit. “This is very important to the Vatican,and the relics will be in all the major Christian communities here,” he toldthe Jerusalem Post. “We are happy to be able to support them and let themrespect the relics.”
In August the remains will leavefor Madrid onthe occasion of the World Youth Day.