St Francis Xavier’s severed right forearm and hand will embark on a month-long tour of Canada in the New Year.
The relic, which is usually displayed in a side-chapel in the Gesù church in Rome, will travel to Ottawa on January 3 before touring 14 cities across the country.
Speaking on CBC Radio, Angèle Regnier, the co-founder of Ottawa’s Catholic Christian Outreach, who will accompany the arm during its tour, joked that the experience will be like “doing a road trip with a friend”.
“I mean, I know it’s bones, but connected to that is a living friendship with St Francis Xavier,” she said. “I’m sure there’ll be a lot of interesting conversations as we go around.”
The saint’s arm will also need its own seat on the flights, Regnier added. “We can’t put it underneath. We can’t even put it in the overhead bins. He has to have his own seat,” she said.
“You’re trying to explain this to Air Canada. We need to book a seat. He is a person in a way, but it’s not a person, it’s an arm.”
St Francis Xavier is best known for his work evangelising various places in Asia, such as Japan and China. Various accounts say he personally baptised between 100,000 and 700,000 people, such that “sometimes, by the bare fatigue of administering that sacrament, he was scarce able to move his arm.”
After his death, his body was laid to rest in Goa, India, but the Jesuit superior general at the time wanted his right forearm and hand – which performed so many baptisms – brought back to Rome as a relic.
Organisers expect the tour to draw thousands of pilgrims.
“It’s quite a production,” Regnier said. “We want to touch most of Canada with it.”
The dates are:
January 3 – Chapelle des Jésuites, Quebec City
January 5 – Cathedral of St John the Baptist, St John’s, Newfoundland
January 7 – St Mary’s Cathedral, Halifax, Nova Scotia
January 8 – St Francis Xavier University, Antigonish, Nova Scotia
January 10 – St Mary’s Cathedral, Kingston, Ontario
January 12 – St Michael’s Cathedral, Toronto, Ontario
January 13 – St Francis Xavier Church, Mississauga, Ontario
January 14 – Church of Our Lady of Lourdes, Toronto, Ontario
January 16 – St Mary’s Cathedral, Winnipeg, Manitoba
January 18 – Holy Family Cathedral, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
January 19 – TBA, Regina, Saskatchewan
January 20 – Resurrection parish, Regina, Saskatchewan
January 21 – Sacred Heart Church, Calgary, Alberta
January 22 – St Michael’s Catholic Community, Calgary, Alberta
January 24 – St Francis Xavier Parish, Vancouver, British Columbia
January 25 – All Saints Parish, Vancouver, British Columbia
January 27 – St Andrew’s Cathedral, Victoria, British Columbia
January 28-29 – Mary Queen of the World Cathedral, Montreal, Quebec
January 30 – TBA, Montreal, Quebec
February 2 – St Patrick’s Basilica, Ottawa, Ontario
February 2 – Notre Dame Cathedral, Ottawa, Ontario