OLD GOA, INDIA – A public display of relics tied to St. Francis Xavier, the Jesuit missionary who exported Christianity to Japan in the 16th century, began Saturday in Old Goa, a historic city in the former Portuguese colony that is now part of India.
The relics will be open for public view through Jan. 4. Organizers are expecting over 5 million visitors during the exhibition, which is only held every 10 years. The relics are usually kept at the city’s Basilica of Bom Jesus, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
On Saturday, thousands of Catholic devotees followed the procession of a casket containing Xavier’s relics from the Basilica to the cathedral, about 500 meters away, which is hosting the public viewing.
Xavier was born in 1506 in Xavier, in the Kingdom of Navarre, now part of Spain. While the Jesuit undertook most of his missionary work in India, he also took his evangelical mission to Japan and other Asian countries.
He landed in what is now the city of Kagoshima in 1549 and spent two years there preaching the gospel.
In 1552, Xavier died in China, where he had intended to carry on his missionary work. His remains were later buried in Goa, then a Portuguese colony. He was beatified in 1619.