A touch of Australian history

This is an Australian story, but it starts in Spain.

Two young, well educated men lived in Spain six hundred years ago. Francis and Ignatius were very pious and holy men. Ignatius went on to be a saint and started the most famous order of Christians.

But our story is about Francis.

He always wanted to be a missionary and chose Asia as his preferred part of the world to start his working life. He is responsible for Christianity thriving first in India, and then throughout most of Asia. He died when attempting to visit China. His body was taken back to Goa in India and was buried.

One hundred years later, and after he had become a saint, Rome requested his body be returned to Italy. He was dug up and amazingly his body in this frighteningly hot country had not decomposed. Naturally, the local population did not want to return the body. A compromise was reached, and the right arm was severed and returned to Rome.

After six hundred years, the arm is still visibly recognised as the arm of St Francis Xavier. Over the years, St Francis was accepted as the patron saint of Australia, until a few years ago, when he was demoted.

This month the relic has been brought to Australia and is displayed in different cities around the country. In Rome visitors are not allowed within many metres of the arm.

Here in Australia, Christians can get right up close to the sacred relic. Australia is a Christian country and St Francis was the first Christian to visit this part of the world. He went to Indonesia and Singapore before Christians became Catholics, Protestants and all the other sects of Christians.

You would think we in this country with a large Christian population would have put on some kind of celebration. Or at least given the Saint some sort of coverage on television and radio.

In fact, did anyone in Perth know the relic was here in the cathedral? With a population of over one million, how many turned up to view the arm? …a few thousand!

History has been brought back to us, and we should make an effort to see this relic. It could be six hundred years before it comes back again.

As a leader of a Christian country, don’t you think Julia Gillard could’ve spent a little time addressing this issue?

It would not have cost her any money…and doesn’t Tony Abbott claim to be a Christian.

Shame on them both.

by Professor P. T. Brown

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