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Where Is The “Other” Arm Of St. Francis Xavier Located?

On every December 3, the Catholic Church celebrates the memorial of St. Francis Xavier, the missionary apostle who is the vanguard of the Church’s worldwide missionary outreach and also one of the patron saints of the Catholic Diocese of Macau since the beginning.

While many know of the famous left forearm of St. Francis Xavier, that has baptized thousands of people, is located at the Gesù Church in Rome , and his body is kept at the Basilica of Bom Jesus in Goa , not many people are aware of his “other” arm in Macau .

At the end of the Fifteenth Century, after Christopher Columbus and his mission of exploration to the western hemisphere, the Spanish and the Portuguese debated the authorities in bringing the Gospel and the colonization to different parts of the world. Thus, in 1493, Pope Alexander VI divided the world between Spain and Portugal , the two great colonizing countries in Europe at the time, by giving Spain the Western Hemisphere, while entrusting Portugal the eastern hemisphere, to the mission of colonization and evangelization.

The key figure to the colonization of the East is St. Francis Xavier, a Jesuit, in bringing the Christian faith to the Eastern hemisphere. He set out for his mission from Rome in 1540 as Papal Legate and stopped at Goa, India, that was the capital of the Portuguese possessions, where he baptized thousands of people. In 1549, he continued his mission to Japan where he made rapid progress. After that, he furthered his missionary journey to Malaysia, Vietnam and in 1552, and died at Shang Chuan Island in the south of China, while trying to bring the Gospel into the country.

Although St. Francis Xavier never made it to proclaiming the Gospel in China, his fellow Jesuits continued his mission. By 1565, the Society of Jesus had already established themselves in Macau, a Portuguese colony at the south of China. In 1568, Fr. Melchior Carneiro, S.J., founded in Macau hospitals, leprosarium, schools, and seminaries. Hence, in 1576, Pope Gregory XIII erected the first diocese in the Far East in the modern times — The Catholic Diocese of Macau — that is responsible for a wide swath of Asia, including China, Korea, Japan, North Vietnam and the islands around the continental Far East, and had named Fr. Melchior Carneiro, S.J. as the first Bishop of Macau.

Since then, Macau became the jump-off point for missionaries going to the different parts of the Far East. For example, Fr. Matteo Ricci, S.J., one of the notable Jesuit missionaries after St. Francis Xavier, as well as the first Korean priest and martyr, St. Andrew Kim, both studied in Macau, before they began their missions in China.

Therefore, St. Francis Xavier is named one of the patron saints of the Catholic Diocese of Macau, highlighting the missionary characteristic of this four centuries old Catholic territory. While St. Francis Xavier’s body is kept at the Basilica of Bom Jesus in Goa, and his right forearm was brought back to the Gesù Church in Rome, the precious relic of his “other” arm is located at the Chapel of the St. Joseph’s Seminary in Macau to present day.


Photography2020 ©️ Macao Catholic Culture Association


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