AROUND two thousand people flocked to St Mary's Church to see a holy saint's relics.

The golden casket carrying St Therese of Lisieux was conveyed in a hearse from the nearby Little Sisters of the Poor and arrived at the church, accompanied by a piper, on Saturday.

Pupils from St Stephen's High School led a procession into the church and the coffin sealed in a glass case was brought into the church where it sat in front of the altar.

There was an atmosphere of celebration as the Saint's remains were welcomed into the church with a shower of rose petals in honour of the 'Little Flower'.

Canon Thomas Boyle said: "It was fantastic.

"I would say there were around 2,000 people at least within the 18 hours.

"We had different groups coming from different parishes.

"We were very honoured to be one of the two places in Inverclyde to be chosen for the visit.

"St Mary's is the oldest Catholic Church since the time of the Reformation and it was great to see people from the various parishes in the area to come along."

St Therese was a young French nun who died of tuberculosis at the age of 24 in 1897.

But it was only after her death that she made her mark on the world through her writings.

These were collected into a book - Journal of a Soul - which quickly became a bestseller.

She was canonised as a Saint in 1925.

Bishop John Keenan celebrated Mass on Saturday and Canon Boyle on Sunday morning and the church was open all night to allow people to visit the relics and have some quiet time to reflect.

Many parishioners and visitors brought roses to place on the casket while others took the opportunity to light a candle at a statue of St Therese and say a prayer for their loved ones.

Canon Boyle said: "I think it went beyond everyone's expectations with the joyfulness of it all and then later that night being able sit in the church quietly.

"We let the doors open and we have quite a few people looking in who were not necessarily parishioners of St Mary's, or members of the church wondering what was going on."

Canon Boyle hopes the special visit to Inverclyde - part of a tour of parishes throughout Scotland - will have a lasting impact.

He said: "It's probably touched people in lots of ways and if it has inspired some people to come back to church, that is great."

The relics left on Sunday for St Mirin's Cathedral in Paisley and thereafter to Barlinnie Prison before returning to France.