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The Arm Of A 465-Year Old Dead Saint
Goes on tour in Canada

January 03, 2018

The severed forearm of St. Francis Xaviar that is on tour in Canada. Photo: Wordpress

Side view of the body of St. Francis seen here at a rare public viewing event. Photo: Wordpress. CLICK TO ENLARGE
Chronicle staff

(OTTOWA, CANADA) -- St. Francis Xavier (1506 - 1552), one of Catholicism's most venerated Saints has been dead for 465 years.

Nevertheless he's embarking on a tour of Canada. More correctly, his severed right forearm is on tour and tens of thousands of the faithful are expected to line up and view what is, by all accounts, a remarkably well preserved section of a very old corpse.

Why it is so well preserved is not precisely known.

There is a certain irony to the tour. If all of this had been done a few years or a few decades after the Saint's demise by, for example a traveling circus, the events would likely have been viewed by authorities as grave robbing and desecration of a corpse -- with severe consequences to follow for those who dared engage in such sacrilegious activity.

But through the lens of the passage of time, some arguably strange things not only become mainstream acceptable, they become the expected, the norm.

These days ancient body parts of Saints are called "relics" and are considered worthy of veneration (and in this case that famous arm, legend has it, baptized into the Christian faith an estimated 100,000 people).

And thus it is that tens of thousands will line up to see the severed arm

A Catholic Christian outreach organization orchestrated the national tour of the relic, according to a report by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC).

The relic is rarely taken from Rome for viewing

Normally the relic is kept in a reliquary in Rome at the Church of the Gesù and is rarely taken on tours for worshippers to see. The remainder of Saint Francis's body is entombed in Goa, India where he did much of his ministry for the church.

The arm, which arrived in Canada Dec. 27 will be part of religious services taking place at St. John’s in Newfoundland, Québec City, Halifax, Antigonish, Kingston Toronto/Mississauga, Winnipeg, Saskatoon, Regina, Calgary, Vancouver, Victoria and Montréal, as well as Ottawa, according to The Telegram in St. John's.

The CBC has a video of the start of the tour here .

A pioneer Catholic missionary

St. Francis, who was born in what is present day Spain, was one of the early pioneers of Roman Catholic missionary work and a co-founder of the Society of Jesus (known today as the Jesuits). He was also a disciple of, and traveling companion with St. Ignatious de loyola, another famous Catholic Saint.

During his ministry, in which he visited almost all of Asia nursing the sick and teaching about Christianty, he became known as the “traveling Priest” .

Legend has it that St. Francis produced miraculous healings of people with various afflictions and that he once raised a boy from the dead.

The legendary priest died at sea en route to China on Dec. 3, 1552 at the age of 46 and was buried on a beach at Shangchuan Island, China.

In March 1553 his "incorrupt" body - at that time it was said the Saint's body showed no sign of decay - was removed from the grave and temporarily buried in St. Paul’s church in Malacca then in December of the same year the body was taken to Goa, India.

In 1637 his body was placed in a glass container encased in a silver casket.

Incorruptibility of the body is a Roman Catholic (and Eastern Orthodox) belief that divine intervention allows some human bodies (specifically saints) to avoid the normal process of decomposition after death as a sign of their holiness. Bodies that undergo little or no decomposition, or delayed decomposition, are sometimes called incorrupt.



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