Schoolchildren who came to venerate relics in Birmingham are told that smiling makes a difference

Large numbers of young pilgrims and pilgrims of all ages flocked to venerate the relics of St John Bosco at the Metropolitan Cathedral and Basilica of St Chad, Birmingham, this week.

Archbishop Bernard Longley of Birmingham celebrated Mass in the Cathedral, packed to capacity with primary schoolchildren and their teachers, from schools throughout the archdiocese.

Fr Martin Coyle SDB, provincial of the Salesians in Britain, emphasised that St Don Bosco, who is the patron saint of schoolchildren and young people, “was a great saint who was always cheerful”.

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Fr Coyle asked each of the pilgrims present to turn to the person next to them and smile at them for five seconds. He said: “It is infectious and it spreads. People have to try very hard not to smile back. It makes a difference to someone else’s life.”

He concluded: “It’s quite simple to be holy – by being happy, not long faces. We need to share joy with one another. Try to be cheerful each day and smile at someone. Others will join in and it will make a difference!”

St John Bosco died in Turin on January 31 1888, aged 72. A large proportion of the population of the Northern Italian city turned out for his funeral. He was declared Blessed in 1929 and canonised by Pope Pius XI on Easter Sunday, April 1 1934.

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