AN estimated 30,000 people visited St John’s Cathedral in Limerick to see the sacred relics of Saint Anthony, which are on an eight-day tour of Ireland from Italy.
Thousands of people queued from 8am on Monday through to 10.30pm last night in the rain outside the church to see, touch and pray at the relics to mark the 750th Anniversary of their discovery by St. Bonaventure.
Reflecting on what he described as a “humbling affirmation of faith”, Bishop of Limerick, Dr Brendan Leahy, who concelebrated the 7pm Mass, said that the numbers that turned up at the 1,000 seater cathedral was way beyond what was expected.
Hundreds more people crammed into the cathedral throughout the day.
“When we accepted the kind invitation from the Franciscans to welcome the relics to Limerick, we knew instantly the privilege this would be for the faithful. What we didn’t expect, however, was that they would turn out in the numbers they did. It was way beyond our expectations and a great lift for all involved in the Church. It was an edifying, humbling and comforting reminder to us that people’s faith is still so precious and strong,” said the Bishop.
“So many people reach out at a spiritual level to St. Anthony on a daily basis and this was their opportunity to have a tangible moment with the saint. They came here to worship, to make petitions and, for many also, to simply say thanks. It really was such a wonderful day of celebration and created such a great buzz in the city itself.”
The relics were accompanied by Fr Mario Conte, OFM Conv, editor of the Messenger of St Anthony magazine (international edition). Addressing the faithful, Fr Conte said that while St. Anthony is widely revered as the Saint who helps find lost things or people, we can also come to St. Anthony asking God’s help when we lose work, lose hope, lose direction or any aspect of our life that needs replenishing.
While only a small part of the relic is on display, he said that does not diminish its importance in the eyes of the people.