Spain Readies for 5th Centenary of Francis Xavier's Birth

Celebrations for the Apostle of the East Begin in December 2005

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PAMPLONA, Spain, JULY 23, 2004 ( Three commissions have been set up in Spain to organize the celebrations for the fifth centenary of the birth of Navarre native Francis Xavier, patron of the missions.

The civil authorities’ commission will oversee the logistical and financial aspects of the commemorative events, while the Pamplona Archdiocese’s panel will coordinate the pastoral and liturgical activities in the diocese, according to Father Ricardo Sada, rector of the saint’s shrine. Father Sada is a member of the third commission, which is under the Jesuits.

The commissions’ ecclesial representatives see the centenary as a great opportunity to make the great apostle of the East known and to stimulate the missions.

Centenary celebrations will begin on Dec. 3, 2005, the feast day of St. Francis Xavier. On that day, the superior general of the Society of Jesus, and all the Jesuit provincial superiors from around the world, will gather in Xavier, in the province of Navarre.

The traditional «Javierada,» a pilgrimage from all the villages, towns and cities of Navarre to the Castle of Xavier, where the great missionary was born, will take place from March 5-11, 2006.

April 7, 2006, is the fifth centenary of Xavier’s birth, and Dec. 3, 2006, will be the closing of the centenary.

Father Sada told the Fides agency that restoration work has been carried out on the shrine and the castle, venues for planned celebrations.

Xavier studied in Paris, where he met Ignatius of Loyola, and was ordained a priest in 1537. He was part of the small group that founded the Society of Jesus in 1539.

The following year, Father Xavier was sent to the East Indies as papal legate for all lands situated east of the Cape of Good Hope. He established himself in Goa in 1542, where he began his apostolate in the East. He left for Japan in 1548, where he worked tirelessly in evangelization.

He tried to enter China in 1552, his cherished missionary dream, but by then he was suffering from high fevers, which led to his death on Dec. 3, 1552.

Beatified in 1619, and canonized in 1622, St. Francis Xavier was proclaimed universal patron of the missions by Pope Pius X in 1904.

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