Basilica Inspired by St. Thérèse Turns 50

Landmark «a Testimony of Faith,» Says Rector

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LISIEUX, France, JULY 12, 2004 ( A celebration marked the 50th anniversary of the consecration of the basilica of Lisieux, dedicated to world patroness of the missions, St. Thérèse.

John Paul II’s special envoy, Cardinal Franciszek Macharski of Krakow, Poland, attended the event Sunday in Normandy.

Plans for the construction of the basilica began when the saint (1873-1897) was canonized by Pope Pius XI on May 17, 1925.

Actual construction got under way in October 1928, with the support of the same Pope.

Monsignor Bernard Lagoutte, rector of the basilica, told Vatican Radio that the landmark church is «a testimony of faith. Not only of the faith of 50 years ago, but of today’s faith, as many people come to the basilica. It is estimated that it receives some 800,000 visitors a year.»

«For us it is a place of great meetings,» he said. «And at times we are obliged to use giant screens or additional halls or to go outside, as the basilica, despite its capacity for 4,000, is not large enough.»

«At the same time it is a valuable memory of the architecture of the time, as the basilica is the largest religious building built in Europe in the 20th century,» Monsignor Lagoutte said.

There is a certain paradox between this huge basilica and Thérèse’s humility, as Vatican Radio stated.

«It is true, this is the first question that arises spontaneously,» Monsignor Lagoutte said. «But the basilica is not a monument to prestige. It is a Magnificat of the little ones and humble ones.»

«They were the ones, the little ones, who built the basilica; pennies after receiving help from Thérèse in a difficult moment, for example, support in the agony of death of a loved one,» he added. «I have good reason to say what I am saying, based on letters that I continue to receive daily.»

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