Centuries-old arm of St. Francis Xavier touring Canada
St. Francis Xavier relic (Catholic Christian Outreach)
Published Wednesday, January 3, 2018 1:37PM EST
The severed arm of St. Francis Xavier, a Catholic missionary who died more than 400 years ago, is on a tour of Canada.
The arm and hand of the saint -- which is said to have blessed and baptized thousands -- has begun a one-month, tour of Canada, with the first of 15 stops held Wednesday at Notre-Dame Basilica in Quebec City.
This is first time the relic, which the Church considers sacred, has been put on display on Canadian soil.
As many as 75,000 Canadians are expected to view it during a tour organized by the Archdiocese of Ottawa, the Canadian Jesuits, and Catholic Christian Outreach, a Catholic university student movement.
“Saint Francis Xavier is one of the most revered saints of all time,” Ottawa Archbishop Rev. Terrence Prendergast said in a statement ahead of the tour.
“He was a man of extraordinary courage and faith who shared the Gospel message of Jesus with thousands across southeast Asia, Goa and India.”
After St. Francis Xavier died in China in 1552, his corpse did not decompose. The Catholic Church says the “incorruptibility” of Xavier’s body is a sign he was a saint.
Another of Xavier’s arm bones is kept at a church in Macau. The rest of his remains are in a tomb in Goa, India, a former Portuguese colony where Xavier spent many years doing missionary work.
The right arm was severed from the rest of the saint’s remains in 1614 and encased in a silver reliquary before being sent to Rome. The arm is normally kept on display at the Church of the Gesu in Rome, one of the first churches of the Jesuit Catholic order.
Angèle Regnier, co-founder of Catholic Christian Outreach, says her group is “thrilled to be able to help bring this relic to all Canadians,” adding that viewing and spending time with the relic is “often a catalyst for a deeper encounter with God.”
The tour continues until Feb. 2 with visits to the following cities: Québec City, St. John’s, Halifax, Antigonish, Kingston, Toronto, Winnipeg, Saskatoon, Regina, Calgary, Vancouver, Victoria, Montréal and Ottawa.