India: St. Francis Xavier’s Reliquary Gets a Makeover

December 24, 2020

Restoration work on the silver reliquary housing the mortal remains of St. Francis Xavier has begun. A decision received with relief, given the state of the reliquary, and which once again illustrates the indifference and even hostility of the authorities towards Catholicism.

The determination of the rector of the Basilica of Bom Jesus in Goa, India, was finally able to prevail. With pride, Fr. Patricio Fernandes announced, on December 10, 2020, the start of the restoration work on the imposing silver reliquary protecting the body of the Apostle of the Indies.

It must be said that this is an emergency, since no conservation work has been undertaken on the reliquary since it was installed in the basilica in 1637.

Let us go back in time: on February 19, 1624, the relics of St. Francis Xavier were solemnly carried in procession from St. Paul College to the Basilica of Bom Jesus.

A few years later, a missionary leaving for Japan stopped in Goa: it was Fr. Marcello Mastrilli, a Jesuit miraculously healed by the saint. It was he who ordered the new silver coffer, which would be finished on time, on December 2, 1637, the eve of the liturgical feast of the companion of St. Ignatius.

Over the centuries, the reliquary has gradually deteriorated, to the point of worrying the current rector of the basilica. At the initiative of Fr. Fernandes, three specialists from Florence, Italy, came to examine the reliquary, and their verdict was final: if no restoration work is undertaken within ten years, the reliquary will collapse on the body of the saint.

It was a finding that did not seem to move the Indian authorities, who were reluctant to grant any help to Christians.

Also, in 2019, the current rector wrote a stern letter to the director of the Indian authority responsible for archaeological work (ASI), accusing him of “colossal negligence, incompetence and inefficiency,” in the management of restoration work on the basilica and its furniture.

A protest that seems to have been followed up, since the restoration work on the shrine of St. Francis Xavier has finally started, two years behind the initial schedule, for an unevaluated period.