GOA, India, JULY 22, 2004 (Zenit.org).- Preparations are under way in the Goa Archdiocese for the exposition of St. Francis Xavier’s relics, an event expected to attract more than 3 million people.
The Basilica of Bom Jesus in Old Goa, where the missionary saint’s tomb is located, is the venue where the Jesuit’s remains will be exposed for veneration from Nov. 21 to Jan. 2.
St. Francis Xavier is regarded as the great apostle of the East and the greatest figure of Christianity in Asia after St. Thomas the Apostle.
Goa, capital of the Portuguese empire in eastern India, was the place where Xavier (1506-1552) arrived in 1542, and the point of departure of his great work of evangelization in the country and in the Far East.
The first exposition of the saint’s remains took place in 1782. For a time, his body was exposed for veneration every year on Dec. 3, his feast day.
Beginning in 1864, the exposition was less frequent for security reasons. Subsequently, it was scheduled every 10 years. The last such exposition took place from Nov. 21, 1994, to Jan. 7, 1995.
Archbishop Filippo Neri Ferrao of Goa and Daman, has circulated a Pastoral Letter exhorting the faithful “to participate actively in the different programs and events that will be organized at various levels, so that the entire ecclesial community of this archdiocese is prepared to receive the bountiful gifts of God on the occasion.”
According to Father Savio Barreto, rector of the Basilica of Bom Jesus, more than 1.5 million people visited the exposition in 1994. “Now, with the kind of publicity and improvement in transport, this figure is set to exceed 3 million,” he said.
“The Goa government, too, is preparing for the mega-event,” he said. “It is already working on easing … traffic and providing other facilities for the devotees during the exposition” period.