ROSE petals were left scattered in their thousands at an Oxford church last night after more than 6,000 pilgrims paid tribute to an “inspirational” saint.

For 22 hours, the Oxford Oratory, in Woodstock Road, was home to the relics of Roman Catholic St Thérèse of Lisieux – and the spectacle drew people from far and wide.

St Thérèse was a French Carmelite nun who died of tuberculosis in 1897, aged 24.

She was described by Pope Pius X as the greatest saint of modern times. Her best known work is A Story of a Soul, which inspired millions of Catholics with its account of her relationship with God.

Hundreds prayed throughout the night and joined long queues for their chance to see the glass-enclosed casket, which contains part of an arm and leg.

Parish priest Father Daniel Seward said: “It’s been the day more people will have visited our church than at any time in the 130 years it has been here.

“St Thérèse shows us that we can be heroic in our love of God just by living an ordinary life. She is inspirational.”

The relics arrived in Britain for a tour of England and Wales last month.

Last night, the casket moved on to St Joseph’s Church in Gerrards Cross, Buckinghamshire.

Father Seward said: “It has gone extremely well, a lot of people were very moved by St Thérèse.

“We had a lot of people visiting from places like Ireland and Gibraltar and people praying through the night. St Thérèse has touched their lives and they are friends.”

Mother-of-five Sophie Bale, 38, of Barton Lane, Headington, bought a group of toddlers carrying rose petals to see the relics at 7am yesterday.

She said: “They got the sense that something special was going on – it was beautiful with all the candles.”

Stratford Caldecott, 54, of Wol-vercote, said: “My wife and I have had a devotion to St Thérèse for years and we have been to Lisieux.

“It was a wonderful prayerful atmosphere and there were hordes and hordes of people we never see in church, just coming to get close to her. They seem to relate to her, it’s very strange and profound I think.

“They see something in her, even though she is culturally so alien. They love her spiritually.”

Paul Raja, 35, came from Caversham, in Reading, to see the relics after he learned that a family member had once received a letter from the saint.

He said: “My great-grandfather wrote a letter to St Thérèse and she replied to him.

“I don’t know what it was about but as soon as my mother told me, I knew I had to come down. I am hoping to see a copy of the letter soon.”