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St. Francis Xavier's arm in Toronto; part of cross-country tour

Last Updated Jan 12, 2018 at 7:33 pm EST

Thousands are expected to line up and gather in churches across the country to see and touch the relic of St. Francis Xavier.

The saint’s forearm was at St. Michael’s Cathedral Basilica in downtown Toronto on Friday — one of 15 stops on a cross-Canada tour.

St. Francis Xavier is a popular figure among Catholics, especially those from Goa, India, and Japan and China, where he did missionary work.

When he died in 1552, his body was buried in Goa, but his forearm is permanently displayed at the Church of the Gesù in Rome. It’s believed to be the first time the relic has come to Canada.

According to the Archdiocese of Toronto, every Catholic church has a relic of a saint on its altar. The practice of honouring relics started early in Christianity, when prayer and mass took place over the tombs of the martyrs.

The severed arm will be at St. Francis Xavier Church in Mississauga on Saturday and at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Toronto on Sunday. Winnipeg is the next city on the tour.