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One million devotees flock to St Francis Xavier's remains

About one million pilgrims have travelled to the western Indian state of Goa to see the remains of a 16th Century Spanish saint, Francis Xavier, whose feast day was observed on Friday.

The sacred remains of the saint, who is revered as the greatest figure of Christianity in Asia, were put on view to the public two weeks ago.

Every 10 years the saint's body, which is encased in an airtight glass-topped silver casket, goes on show for six weeks in the Basilica of Bom Jesus near Panaji.

Church spokesman Bosco George said that "already around a million have come and venerated the saint" since his body went on display in Old Goa.

"We expect millions more," he said.

The Jesuit saint arrived in 1542 in Goa, which was then the capital of the Portuguese empire in the east.

On Friday. over 70,000 pilgrims crowded the basilica for a glimpse of the saint's body during the annual feast day dedicated to the missionary whose works earned him the name "Apostle to the Indies."

Church records say the saint, who was canonised in 1622, began his missionary work in Goa and later carried his evangelical message to the rest of India and elsewhere in Asia.

Normally the saint's remains are kept in a casket on a high altar at the Basilica.

The saint's body was returned to Goa two years after his death in 1552 on an island off the Chinese mainland.

The Church says that when his body was exhumed it was in "a miraculous state of preservation."

The body will remain on display until 2 January.

1 million devotees flock to saint's remains (ABC/AFP 5/12/04)

All About Francis Xavier | Xavier's Tomb
Feast of St Francis Xavier (goacom)
St Francis Xavier (sjweb)

St Francis Xavier relics survive fire in Goa basilica (CathNews 25/10/04)

Goa exposition attracts huge crowds of pilgrims (Catholic Bishops Conference of India 3/12/04)
Feast of St Francis Xavier: preparations for special celebrations for the 5th centenary of the birth of this great missionary which will commence next year (Fides 3/12/04)
Through the intercession of St. Francis Xavier, may be this land of bountiful missionary harvest Cardinal Sepe said during Mass for Evangelisation in Bangkok (Fides 3/12/04)
Goa celebrates feast of St Francis Xavier (Independent Catholic News 3/12/04)
Jesuits: Concerned About Commercialization Surrounding Relics of St. Francis Xavier (Vidimus Dominum 4/12/04)

6 Dec 2004