By JOSH LEDERMAN, Associated Press Josh Lederman, Associated Press

JERUSALEM – Remains of a revered French nun who died more than 100

years ago have traveled the world, ventured into outer space and been

worshipped by hundreds of thousands of Catholics. Now the relics of

St. Therese of Lisieux are making their way through the Holy Land.

St. Therese’s remains arrived in Israel on Monday on a flight from Brussels,

greeted by the Vatican’s ambassador to Israel, a delegate from the Latin

Patriarch of Jerusalem and other Catholic dignitaries.

“This is an event of faith and an event of devotion that aims at helping the

people to become better and to live in a better way, in their social life, in

their community life, in their spiritual life,” said Apostolic Nuncio Antonio Franco.

After staying three days in Jerusalem, St. Therese’s relics will tour Catholic

parishes throughout Israel, allowing devotees to worship in the presence of

the saint nicknamed the “Little Flower.”

In the Catholic faith, relics refer to the bodily remains — bits of bone, hair and

blood — of beatified religious figures. Devotees pray publicly to the remains

of the venerated to ask for help or spiritual guidance, a tradition that may

stem from medieval practices of using imagery and symbolism to communicate

biblical messages.

St. Therese is one of only a few Doctors of the Church, a designation granted

to distinguished Catholic thinkers. Catholic churches, schools and hospitals all

over the world bear her name, and Mother Teresa was named after her.

At a ceremony at Israel’s Ben-Gurion International Airport Monday, about 60

nuns, priests and local Catholics gathered to welcome the arrival of the saint’s

relics, singing and chanting beside a massive banner bearing her likeness.

From an unmarked white jet, church officials unloaded the reliquary —

a gold-adorned wooden box containing the remains.

Israel is the latest stop on a global tour for St. Therese’s relics, which spent

more than three months in South Africa last year coinciding with the 2010

World Cup. The relics toured England and Wales in 2009, and before that,

St. Therese’s relics were in the Philippines.

The tour also brought the relics to outer space in 2008 when astronaut Ron

Garan took her aboard the Discovery space shuttle, the Catholic news

service Zenit reported. It’s unlikely the relics from that cosmic voyage are

the same ones now in Israel, since the reliquary that arrived Monday would

be too large for space travel. Another set is currently in France.

St. Therese was born in France in 1873 and baptized at Notre Dame Cathedral

in Paris, according to the Vatican. At the unusually young age of 14, she

sought permission to become a Carmelite nun.

When she was rejected, she approached Pope Leo XIII directly for permission.

The Carmelite superior relented and at age 15, St. Therese entered the Carmel

of Lisieux, part of a Catholic order founded at Mount Carmel near the modern

city of Haifa, Israel.

“She trusted totally in God, like a little child at the breasts of its mother,” said

Flavio Caloi, the vicar general of the Carmelite order.

St. Therese’s death at age 24 is believed to have been caused by tuberculosis.

She was canonized 28 years later by Pope Pius XI in 1925.

Patriarchal Vicar William Shomali said the Latin Patriarchate waited seven years

for the opportunity to host St. Therese’s remains. The relics will be transferred

to Spain in May for the next leg of the world tour, Shomali said.

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