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Faithful welcome relic of St Francis Xavier

Date

Larissa Nicholson

Father Francis Kolenchery  administrator of St Christopher's Cathedral says a prayer with the relic of St Francis Xavier.

Father Francis Kolenchery administrator of St Christopher's Cathedral says a prayer with the relic of St Francis Xavier. Photo: Jeffrey Chan

A hearse pulled up at St Christopher's Cathedral in Manuka at 3.30pm yesterday and stood glinting in the sun as more than 60 Catholic faithful arrived and filed into the church.

Passers-by may well have assumed a funeral was about to get underway, but closer inspection would reveal something far more unusual.

The right forearm of St Francis Xavier, on an Australia-wide tour, had arrived in Canberra that morning and was about to begin a short residence at the cathedral.

Attendants opened the sides of the vehicle so the forearm and attached hand, child-sized by today's standards, could be seen through layers of protective perspex and encased in a specially made wooden box.

St Francis Xavier founded the Jesuit order of priests and brothers, and his forearm is rarely taken from its home in the main Jesuit church in Rome, the Gesu, but will be touring Australia for 2½ months as part of the Catholic celebration of the year of grace.

The saint died in 1552, but his forearm was not removed from his body until 1614, chosen as an object of devotion because he used it to bless and baptise thousands of people in Asia.

Students of St Francis Xavier College in Florey got up close to the relic at a school assembly before it was moved to St John's Parish in Kippax for a church service, and then on to the cathedral, where it will remain until 1pm tomorrow. Administrator Father Francis Kolencherry chose four parishioners to carry the forearm like pall bearers up to the altar. As the church bells rang the small crowd followed the relic inside, where it was placed upright, blessed, and the mass began.

9 comments

  • For goodness sake let the man's body lay in peace ...

    Commenter
    Blueman
    Date and time
    September 27, 2012, 9:15AM
    • A rather macabre scenario.

      Commenter
      Lena
      Date and time
      September 27, 2012, 10:01AM
    • Just plain creepy.

      Commenter
      redman
      Date and time
      September 27, 2012, 1:51PM
  • Yuk. Who wants to go and touch some dead guys arm. It's disgusting and is probably anyone's but the so called saint.

    Commenter
    Peter
    Location
    Gowrie
    Date and time
    September 27, 2012, 11:39AM
    • How utterly bizarre. How sad and sick. And the Catholic Church wonders why it's losing followers. Meanwhile, the Christian world is outraged at the practices of some of our Muslim brothers and sisters. God help us.

      Commenter
      Bill
      Location
      Deakin
      Date and time
      September 27, 2012, 12:34PM
      • I'm afraid I find this kind of reverence of mummified body parts macabre, gruesome and in bad taste.

        Commenter
        weird
        Date and time
        September 27, 2012, 1:28PM
        • It is a bit weird, but it harkens to a bygone era when death and the afterlife, were an everyday part of the here and now. We 21st century folks rarely ever see death, and avoid the whole notion of death and beyond. Venerating saints' bodies is a bit like visiting the grave of a loved one ... agreed, it is a bit odd when the 'body' comes to you! Ultimately the Catholic custom of venerating saints is meant to be a time of reflecting on the inspirational characteristics of that person.

          Commenter
          Catherine
          Location
          Canberra
          Date and time
          September 27, 2012, 2:03PM
          • From wikipedia: "St Francis Xavier requested the foundation of the Goa Inquisition, but he never saw it happen; it commenced eight years after his death. On 16 May 1545, Xavier wrote to the King of Portugal to establish the Inquisition in Goa: "The second necessity for the Christians is that Your Majesty establish the Holy Inquisition in Goa because there are many who live according to the Jewish Law and according to the Mohammedan Sect, without any fear of God or shame of the World. And since there are many Hindus who are spread all over the fortresses, there is the need of the Holy Inquisition, and of many preachers. Your Majesty should provide such necessary things for your loyal and faithful subjects in the Indies."
            St Francis Xavier was obviously enthusiastic in imposing the benefits of Christianity.The Holy Inquistion Xavier initiated in Goa proved extremely successful, with about 16,000 heretics officially identified (some of the records still exist). They were convicted, tortured, and an unknown number burned at the stake in the churchyards that still can be visited. Most Hindus moved out from Goa, and maybe because there were just too many Hindus around to deal with all of them, eventually - 300 years later - in 1812 the Goa Inquistion gave up!
            (Finally India kicked the Portugese colonialists out of its state of Goa in 1961 by a military offensive involving land, air and seaborne military strikes!).

            Commenter
            Alicki
            Date and time
            September 27, 2012, 7:03PM
            • The article needs a correction as it was St Ignatius of Loyola who was the founder of the Jesuits, not St Xavier. The latter was nevertheless quite famous for bringing the faith to the East in the wave of great Portuguese sea voyages.

              Commenter
              John P
              Location
              menora Perth
              Date and time
              September 28, 2012, 5:55AM
              Comments are now closed
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