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On show, the moving arm of faith

Date

Kristian Silva

An arm said to be that of St Francis Xavier drew crowds to Monash University and Frankston?s St Francis Xavier Church.

An arm said to be that of St Francis Xavier drew crowds to Monash University and Frankston?s St Francis Xavier Church. Photo: Joe Armao

A HUMAN forearm touted as ''the most significant Jesuit relic to ever visit Australia'' has arrived in Melbourne as part of a national tour.

Safely secured in its own custom-built glass case, what's claimed to be the 506-year-old right forearm of St Francis Xavier will be taken to Catholic churches across the state for the next six days.

The mummified relic, which still has flesh and all fingers intact, was given its own seat on the plane for the long flight from Rome to Australia last month. It was accompanied by New South Wales Bishop Peter Comensoli, who gained permission from Rome's Church of the Gesu, to take the relic on a 23-city tour of Australia to mark the Catholic Church's Year of Grace.

A man touches the case in which a forearm, claimed to be St Francis Xavier's,  resides. Click for more photos

506 Year-Old Relic, Claimed to be St Francis Xavier's Forearm

A human forearm, touted as "the most significant Jesuit relic to ever visit Australia" has arrived in Melbourne for a national tour. The mummified relic, which still has flesh and fingers intact and is encased in a glass reliquary, is claimed to be the 506 year-old right forearm of St Francis Xavier who apparently used it to bless people, tend the sick and write letters. Photo: Joe Armao

Father Robin Koning, a Jesuit priest and theology lecturer at MCD University of Divinity in Kew, said he believed the saint's forearm had left the Church of the Gesu only four times and ''certainly never been to this side of the world. In Rome, it's kept at some distance so people can't get as close to it as they can here and they will be allowed to touch the glass reliquary. A large part of St Francis Xavier's work was baptising, so [when alive] he would have used [the arm] for blessing people, writing letters and tending the sick,'' he said.

The relic made its first appearance at the St Francis Xavier Catholic Church in Frankston yesterday before it was taken in a hearse to Monash University for a Mass in front of 700 members the Indian Goan Catholic community. It was then taken to Brunswick's All Saints Church for an overnight vigil. Today it will be on display at All Saints at 9am, before being taken to Box Hill and Montmorency.

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