Xavier's Relics Still Stir a Missionary Spirit

Goa Archbishop Cites India’s «Missionary Tradition»

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GOA, India, DEC. 7, 2004 (Zenit.org).- The exposition of the relics of St. Francis Xavier «is an opportunity to rediscover our great missionary tradition,» says the Catholic archbishop of Goa.

Through Jan. 2, millions of pilgrims will be received at the Basilica of Bom Jesu, where the saint’s tomb is located. The pilgrims are venerating the remains of this Jesuit, often regarded as «the greatest figure of Christianity in Asia after St. Thomas the Apostle.»

The exposition of Xavier’s relics is held every 10 years. At present, more than 10,000 pilgrims arrive every day from Goa, other parts of India and even other countries, Archbishop Filipe do Rosário Ferrão told the Fides agency.

The leader of the Church in Goa explained that the «whole community has prepared the best way possible,» after he addressed a pastoral letter to the parishes, establishing in ad hoc commission to prepare the faithful spiritually for the event, and to encourage meetings, liturgies, and moments of prayer.

This «event «has a special meaning for us,» the archbishop said.

«As the Pope says in ‘Ecclesia in Asia,’ the Good News must be proclaimed to Asia by bishops, priests, religious and lay people,» he said Thursday, on the eve of the feast of St. Francis Xavier. «This is a privileged time to rediscover our missionary responsibility to proclaim the Gospel and the great missionary tradition of the Church in Goa.»

Goa, capital of the Portuguese empire of the East Indies, was where Francis Xavier (1506-1552) arrived in 1542. He left from there to carry out his great work of evangelization in other parts of India and the Far East.

The archbishop highlighted the fact that the Spanish saint and missionary is a universal figure, much loved in India,» Archbishop Rosário Ferrão said. «People in Goa whatever their religion, are deeply devoted to the ‘Lord of Goa,’ as St. Francis is called.»

Proof of this, he said, is «the ready collaboration offered by civil authorities and the presence of people of other religions. … Many Muslim and Hindu pilgrims bear witness, attracted by the saint. We see people of all situations and walks of life and different religions are making this pilgrimage.»

The archbishop noted that there is concern over «the recent episodes of violence perpetrated by groups of Hindu fundamentalists. But it should be said that most followers of Hinduism tolerate and respect other faiths, in a spirit of genuine pluralism.»

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