Saint Francis Xavier’s right arm — largely considered to be a religious relic — will arrive in Quebec City Wednesday, commencing its month long, 14-city pilgrimage across Canada.
Saint Francis was a Spanish Jesuit missionary, who died 465 years ago. Born in Navarre, now Spain, he is widely considered to be part of the founding group of the Society of Jesus, commonly referred to as Jesuits.
He was officially cannonized in 1622, in recognition of his evangelical work in countries like India, Japan, and Borneo — work that garnered him the nickname “the Apostle of India and Japan.”
His right arm, which was used to bless and baptise religious converts, was detached from his body in 1614 — 62 years post-mortem — by Superior General Claudio Acquaviva.
The arm itself is considered to be well-preserved, or “incorrupt,” since the body never fully decomposed after death. According to Catholic Christian Outreach, Saint Francis’ body “miraculously” did not experience natural decay.
It’s believe that the arm was used to baptize more than 100,000 people.
Another of the saint’s arm bones is reportedly kept in Macau, encased in a silver reliquary.
The body/bones of a saint constitute “first class” relics. meaning they are of the utmost rarity and present an opportunity to make a “special connection” with God.
Tour organizers expect the public veneration will draw over 100,000 visitors. The first showing will take place at Quebec City’s Notre-Dame Basilica on January 2nd.
Afterwards, the forearm will be on display in Montreal on January 28 and 29 at the Marie-Reine-du-Monde cathedral, and on January 30th, at St. Ignatius of Loyola church, and the Church of the Gesu on de Bleury.
Physical remains of saints are considered important religious relics, and are rarely taken out of Rome. Saint Francis’ arm — until the time of the tour — was kept at the main Jesuit church in Rome, Il Gesu.
Spectators in Vancouver, Ottawa, Toronto, Winnipeg and a handful of other Canadian cities will be able to view the relic.
With files from The Canadian Press.
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