Every ten years, the sacred relics (i.e. the incorrupt body) of St. Francis Xavier (1506-1552) are put on display in Goa. The exposition draws millions -- four million, this time, over the 45 day period, 200,000 on the last day alone. The exposition is a massive effort, with hundreds of staff, volunteers, government and security officials working tirelessly for months to make it all go off smoothly. Pilgrims include people from various religions, not just Catholics. In India, a saint is a saint, for everybody.
|The line of devotees on Saturday afternoon (photo courtesy Harry Thompson)|
|Archbishop Pennachio, other prelates and priests with the casket containing the relics, Sé Cathedral.|
|The faithful await the arrival of Goencho Sahib.|
At the Basilica, we all lined up at the altar. The casket went right past us, towards the sacristy, preceded by the prelates. Eventually, it would be returned to its spot at the top of the memorial in the right transept. We vested (for most this consisted of throwing a stole over their cassocks), and lined up behind the seminarians for the procession for the Mass. A crowd of some 10,000 faithful waited outside. The Nuncio, Archbishop Salvatore Pennachio was the principal celebrant, with Archbishop Felipe Neri Ferrão, Primate Archbishop of Goa and several other Bishops as principal concelebrants, assisted by a hundred and fifty or so priests. The Mass was celebrated in English, with readings and prayers in Konkani, and the Archbishop's homily, and (the extensive) thanksgiving speeches, as well as the MC's commentary (I find this so tiresome. The Mass isn't a show or a performance!), also repeated in Konkani. The choir was very good, and the music was perhaps the best I've experienced at a Latin-rite Mass in India.
|The normal resting place of the body of St. Francis Xavier -- the casket is missing in this photo.|
|The casket arrives in the Basilica.|
|The stage set for the celebration of Holy Mass outside the Basilica|
|The casket being carried past gathered priests inside the Basilica.|
A report on the closing Mass from the Goa Herald.
How St. Francis Xavier became Goencho Sahib.
|Yours truly, decked out in his white Indian cassock, to meet Goencho Sahib.|