BY LUKE COPPEN
A I 9TH CEVR RN French saint upstaged the arrival of United Nations weapons inspectors in Iraq this week.
As the inspectors touched down in Baghdad on Monday, thousands of Iraqi Christians were travelling to venerate the relics of St Therese of Lisieux, the youngest Doctor of the Church. The remains of the Carmelite nun arrived in Iraq last Sunday for a 10-day visit as the population readied itself for a new American-led assault on President Saddam Hussein.
The relics were touring Lebanon and Egypt when Archbishop Jean Sleiman of Baghdad asked custodians to allow them to travel to his beleaguered country. Archbishop Sleiman, a former definitor general of the Order of Discalced Carmelites, hopes that the visit will bring comfort to Iraq's 800,000 Christians.
Over the past decade, the saint's relics have visited the United States, Russia, Ireland, Australia and Brazil, inspiring a revival of Catholic piety everywhere they have travelled.
Sr Mary Stephen, a sister at the Carmelite Monastery in Golders Green, North London, and a friend of Archbishop Sleiman, said St Therese's visit to Iraq showed that war was not the only way to resolve the crisis in the Middle Fast.
"A lot of people think we are now in the realm of miracles," she said. "It's prayer that's going to sort this out."