.- A relic of 16th century Jesuit missionary, St. Francis Xavier, has arrived in Australia ahead of a 3-month tour of the country that is expected to draw tens of thousands of pilgrims.
“St. Francis has always held a special place in the hearts of Catholic Australians,” said Auxiliary Bishop Peter Comensoli as the relic arrived in Sydney Sept. 16.
“I want to personally invite you and your family and friends to take up this unique and unrepeatable opportunity to experience the person of Christ – his grace, mercy and peace – through the presence of this great saint’s relic.”
The relic is the baptizing right arm of the Spanish saint who christened tens of thousands of people during his missionary work in the Africa, India and the Far East. For 400 years it has been kept in the mother-Church of the Jesuit order in Rome, the Gesu.
On Friday Sept. 14, though, Bishop Comensoli took possession of it during a special ceremony in the Gesu, before making for Rome’s main airport and a 23-hour flight to Sydney.
“When we were a missionary country, St. Francis was – along with St. Therese of the Child Jesus – our co-patron,” explained Bishop Comensoli.
“Many cathedrals, churches and schools are named after him and he continues to inspire us as a tremendous example of a missionary and evangelizer and he intercedes for our nation every day.”
Upon arrival in Australia, the relic was taken to St. Mary’s Church in North Sydney where a special Mass was offered by Cardinal George Pell of Sydney along with Fr. Steve Curtin, the Provincial of the Society of Jesus in Australia. Following the Mass, hundreds of people waited patiently to venerate the relic.
St. Francis Xavier was a student of St. Ignatius of Loyola, the 16th century founder of the Society of Jesus or “Jesuits”. One of the first seven Jesuits, St. Francis travelled traveled extensively, mainly in the Portuguese Empire, making many converts in India, Japan and the islands of South East Asia such as Borneo.
It had always been the ambition of St. Francis to reach China. He died, however, on an island less than 10 miles from the Chinese mainland in 1552. He was 46-years-old. His body is now buried in the Indian state of Goa but his right arm was taken to Rome in the early 17th century.
The relic of St. Francis has arrived in Australia to assist the Church down under in marking a “Year of Grace” ahead of Pope Benedict's universal “Year of Faith” which begins across the globe next month.
The relic will now tour across the country in a specially made reliquary over the next three months.
For more information on where to visit the relic of St. Francis Xavier, visit: http://www.sydneycatholic.org/events/pilgrimageofgrace/.