Relics of St Francis Xavier go on display in Goa

Relics of St Francis Xavier go on display in Goa
Photo Credit: Vaibhav Mehta

The exposition, which comes along once every 10 years, runs till January 4, 2015, at the Sé Cathedral

Vaibhav Mehta
December 05 , 2014
02 Min Read

They come by the tens of thousands, faithful flocks from lands far and near, to Old Goa to gaze upon what they believe to be a miracle of the modern age. The object of their veneration: a tiny and spartan casket bearing the relics of St Francis Xavier, the 16th-century Catholic missionary and Goa’s patron saint, whose body remains largely undecayed to this day.

Once every decade, the relics are displayed publicly for the believers to reinforce their faith. This year, the Exposition got under way on November 22, and will go on until January 4, 2015.

Old Goa is about a half-hour drive from Panjim, beside the waters of the Mandovi River. The area is home to many stately 16th-century churches, including the Basilica of Bom Jesu, which houses the relics of the ‘Apostle of the Indies’, as he was known.

On November 22, after the Eucharistic ceremony, the relics were brought in a solemn procession from the basilica, a distinctive Baroque-style structure, and placed at the Sé Cathedral, one of Asia’s largest churches, with its striking Tuscan exterior and Corinthian interiors. Security was tight, but the crowd management arrangements were immaculate.

For the duration of the Exposition, the church has organised a range activities, exhibitions and spiritual programmes. There’s also a Faith Exhibition at the Sé Cathedral complex, where stalls sell mementos — or just spread the message of love and peace. At one stall, people are seen queuing up to pick an orange ball from an earthen pot, which ‘miraculously’ reveals their vocation. But given the limited range of vocations that occupy the Indian mind, everyone turned out to be an engineer!

I’ve visited Old Goa several times earlier, but this time felt very different, with pilgrims from faraway lands — including Portugal (with which Goa shares a colonial history), Spain, Canada and Japan. Others came from within India, walking for days across states. Over the 45-day period, an estimated 50 lakh pilgrims are expected to visit Old Goa, making it the largest religious congregation I’ve experienced after the Mahakumbh.

The collective atmosphere of faith in any form is always profoundly moving, even for someone like me, who isn’t overly religious. As I walked around the streets of Old Goa, between the basilica and the cathedral, I couldn’t remain immune to the surge of spiritual energy all around me. A beam of sunlight fell upon me, and for a brief moment, I felt the bliss of the blessed.

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