The relics of Saint Therese of Lisieux are back for the third time in the Philippines for a four-month tour, their arrival seized by a Catholic bishop as an opportunity to again campaign against the passage of the controversial reproductive health (RH) bill.
The relics—bone fragments of the Carmelite nun which are kept in a glass-encased hardwood box—arrived at Ninoy Aquino International Airport Saturday afternoon on an Etihad Airways flight and under the care of Msgr. Don Vito Pabilando, pastor of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Parish in Malilipot, Albay.
Welcome honors led by Military Ordinariate Bishop Leopolodo Tumulak were later held at Kalayaan Hall in Villamor Air Base, Pasay City.
“It is my hope that as she tours the country, we would welcome her with deep faith and boundless love so that we may remember her and her teachings as we strive to live according to the example of Christ,” Tumulak said.
Lipa Archbishop Ramon Arguelles, Tumulak’s predecessor as ordinariate bishop, urged the faithful to pray to St. Therese “for our legislators and leaders, that through them the Philippines will give the Child Jesus, whose birth we celebrate 10 days from now, the precious gift of not making RH a law.”
“May the Holy Innocents whose death preceded the Divine Child’s oblation for us guide the hearts of and minds of everyone to be faithful to God,” Arguelles said in a text message.
The RH bill seeks to provide couples with information on reproductive health and access to contraceptives and also mandates sex education in school.
Amid strong opposition from the Catholic Church, the House of Representatives voted 113-104 to approve the measure on second reading on Thursday.
The military ordinariate, which ministers to Roman Catholics in the Armed Forces of the Philippines, is hosting this year’s tour of the relics, which were earlier brought to the country in 2000 and 2008.
Under a rain of rose petals and confetti from a Philippine Air Force chopper, seminarians, priests, nuns, soldiers and lay devotees accompanied the relics in a procession to The Shrine of St. Therese of the Child Jesus at Newport City, Pasay.
From Newport, the relics will be open for viewing this month at Villamor, Fort Bonifacio, Camp Crame, Camp Aguinaldo, AFP Medical Center, Veterans Memorial Medical Center and the dioceses of Novaliches, Cubao, Pasig and Antipolo.
In January 2013, they will be flown to the provinces, starting in the Ilocos region.
Born in 1873, St. Therese of Lisieux, also called St. Therese of the Child Jesus and of the Holy Face, is the patron saint of missionaries, aviators, tuberculosis sufferers, florists and gardeners, among others.
She joined the cloistered Carmelite community in Lisieux, Normandy, France at the age of 15.
She was beatified in 1923, canonized in 1925 and later declared one of the patrons of France.