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Relic of St. Francis Xavier in Australia

 ROME (AsiaNews): A relic of 16th century Jesuit missionary, St. Francis Xavier, has arrived in Australia for a three-month tour that is expected to draw tens of thousands of people.

“St. Francis has always held a special place in the hearts of Australian Catholics,” Bishop Peter Comensoli said as the relic arrived in Sydney on September 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 part of the right arm of the Spanish saint, who is believed to have baptised tens of thousands of people during his missionary work in Africa, India and Asia.

For 400 years it has been kept in the mother church of the Jesuit order in Rome, the Gesu.

On September 14, Bishop Comensoli took possession of the relic during a special ceremony at the Gesu, before heading to the airport in Rome and making the 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,” Bishop Comensoli explained.

“Many cathedrals, churches and schools are named after him and he continues to inspire us as a tremendous example of a missionary and evangeliser and he intercedes for our nation every day.”

Upon arrival in Australia, the relic was taken to the Jesuit church of St. Mary’s in North Sydney, where a special Mass was offered by George Cardinal Pell, the archbishop of Sydney, along with Father 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, as they are more commonly known.

One of the first seven Jesuits, St. Francis travelled 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 15 kilometres 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 was taken to Australia as part of the Down Under celebration of the Year of Grace, ahead of Pope Benedict’s universal Year of Faith, which begins across the globe in October.

The relic will tour the country in a specially made reliquary over the next three months.

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