Church of St. Francis of Assisi

Church of St. Francis of Assisi

Francis Xavier, born Francisco de Jasso y Azpilicueta (7 April 1506 – 3 December 1552) was a pioneering Roman Catholic missionary born in the Kingdom of Navarre (currentlySpain-France) and co-founder of the Society of Jesus. He was a student of Ignatius of Loyolaand one of the first seven Jesuits, dedicated at Montmartre in 1534.He led an extensive mission into Asia, mainly in the Portuguese Empire of the time. He was influential in the spreading and upkeep of Catholicism most notably in India, but also ventured into Japan,Borneo, the Moluccas, and other areas which had thus far not been visited by Christian missionaries. In these areas, being a pioneer and struggling to learn the local languages in the face of opposition, he had less success than he had enjoyed in India.

He left Lisbon on 7 April 1541 along with two other Jesuits and the new Viceroy Martim Afonso de Sousa, on board the Santiago. From August until March 1542 he remained in Mozambique, having reached Goa, then capital of Portuguese India’s on May 6, 1542, and also visiting Vasai. There he was invited to head Saint Paul’s College, a pioneer seminaryfor the education of secular priests that became the first jesuit headquarters in Asia, but soon departed, having spent the following three years in India.

Burials and relics

He was first buried on a beach at Shangchuan Island. In 2006, on the 500th anniversary of his birth, the Xavier Tomb Monument and Chapel on the island, in ruins after years of neglect under communist rule in China was restored with the support from the alumni of Wah Yan College, a Jesuit high school in Hong Kong. His incorrupt body was taken from the island in February 1553 and was temporarily buried in St. Paul’s church in Malacca on 22 March 1553. An open grave in the church now marks the place of Xavier’s burial. Pereira came back from Goa, removed the corpse shortly after 15 April 1553, and moved it to his house. On 11 December 1553, Xavier’s body was shipped to Goa. The body is now in the Basilica of Bom Jesus in Goa, where it was placed in a glass container encased in a silver casket on 2 December 1637.

Casket of Saint Francis Xavier

The right forearm, which Xavier used to bless and baptize his converts, was detached by Pr. Gen. Claudio Acquaviva in 1614. It has been displayed since in a silver reliquary at the main Jesuit church in Rome, Il Gesù.

Another of Xavier’s arm bones was brought to Macau where it was kept in a silver reliquary. The relic was destined for Japanbut religious persecution there persuaded the church to keep it in Macau’s Cathedral of St. Paul. It was subsequently moved to St. Joseph’s and in 1978 to the Chapel of St. Francis Xavier on Coloane Island. More recently the relic was moved to St. Joseph’s Seminary and the Sacred Art Museum.

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