Dear friends in Christ, and fellow Christian pilgrims,
Grace and peace to you!
In this national Year of Grace, what better way to make the most of it than by travelling the road of faith with a great friend of Jesus. St Francis Xavier (1506-1552), co-founder with St Ignatius Loyola of the Jesuits and the greatest Christian missionary since St Paul, is just such a fellow pilgrim of grace.
We have been praying in our national prayer: "Gracious God, you have blessed this ancient land with many gifts…" Well, now we are to be blessed with the gift of a national pilgrimage of a relic of St Francis.
St Francis blessed and baptised thousands of people in south Asia. The arm with which he did this has been venerated in the principal Jesuit Church in Rome, the Gesú, since the early 1600s. For the first time this holy relic will now be coming to Australia from 16 September until 3 December.
St Francis has always held a special place in the life of Catholics in Australia. When we were a missionary country, he was (along with St Therese of the Child Jesus) our co-patron. Three cathedrals and many churches and schools are named after him. He continues to inspire us as a tremendous example of a missionary and evangeliser, and he intercedes for our nation even today.
I want to personally invite you and your family and friends to take up this unique and unrepeatable opportunity to experience the person of Christ – his grace, mercy and peace – through the presence of this great saint's relic.
Bishop Peter A Comensoli
Auxiliary Bishop of Sydney
The Australian Jesuits welcome this famous relic of St Francis Xavier to Australia. It comes from the Jesuit Church of the Gesù in Rome.
The tour of the relic will remind the Australian Church of one of the greatest missionary journeys, not only in terms of the vast sea distances covered, but also with respect to the journey into different cultures: firstly southern India, where this arm was raised to baptize thousands of new Christians; next, the islands of present-day Indonesia (the closest Francis came to Australian shores); then Japan, where he was confronted by a confident, sophisticated culture that forced him to rethink his missionary strategy; finally, realizing that the key to converting Japan was first to convert China, the shores of that great empire, where he died virtually alone, knocking on a door that his Jesuit followers would enter several decades later. The relic puts us in touch with this trailblazing story.
Fr Steve Curtin SJ
Provincial of the Society of Jesus