Nfld. & Labrador·Video

465-year-old religious relic 'extraordinary blessing' for Catholics in St. John's

People at the church said the relic is a symbol of their faith, and an inspiration to live like St. Francis Xavier.

Arm of St. Francis Xavier on display at Basilica as part of Canadian tour

People placed prayer cards at the base of the arm's case. (Ted Dillon/CBC)

Roman Catholics in Newfoundland got a chance to be in the presence of a saint — or at least part of one — on Friday.

The right arm of St. Francis Xavier, severed 465 years ago, was at the Basilica of St. John the Baptist in St. John's, its third stop on a Canada-wide tour and its first stop in Atlantic Canada.

St. Francis Xavier's arm visits St. John's

5 years ago
Duration 0:57
St. Francis Xavier's arm, severed 465 years ago, made a visit to the Basilica of St. John the Baptist on Friday.

"It was very important," said George Day, a teacher who was at the church to venerate the relic.

"It was a very quiet and sombre time to think that you were here, and that you could receive an extraordinary blessing just for being there with the relic of St. Francis."

The experience was especially meaningful for Day, he said, because the first school he taught at was St. Francis Xavier in Long Harbour.

St. Francis Xavier is said to have baptized tens of thousand of converts with his right arm in the 1500s. When he died in 1552, it is said that his body didn't decompose.

The sacred limb was severed at the request of the Jesuit order.

The arm of St. Francis Xavier, who is said to have baptized tens of thousands of converts to the Catholic faith in the 1500s. (Ted Dillon/CBC)

"This is what — 400, 500 years old — and it hasn't decayed? If that's not an indication of our faith, the Catholic faith, what else is?" said Brendan Rose, who was also at the Basilica on Friday.

The severed arm of St. Francis Xavier is brought into the Basilica of St. John the Baptist in St. John's. (Ted Dillon/CBC)

"It was wonderful to be in the presence of a saint like St. Francis Xavier," said Colette Fleming, who described the experience as deeply spiritual.

"If we could only follow the example of St. Francis Xavier for our fellow human beings and be present for those who need us, I think it is a powerful calling from St. Francis."

'It’s a most holy and blessed moment for all of us,' said Colette Fleming. (Ted Dillon/CBC)

With files from Zach Goudie