Xavier, Francis (1506–1552)
Xavier, Francis (1506–1552)
Missionary who converted thousands to Christianity in India, the East Indies, and the Far East. Born Francisco de Jasso y Azpilcueta to a noble family of Navarre, he was the son of a counselor to the king of Navarre. He studied at the University of Paris, where in 1534 became one of the seven founding members of the Jesuit Order founded by Ignatius of Loyola. Xavier traveled to Venice in 1536 and was ordained a priest in 1537. He worked for several years to establish Jesuit institutions in Rome and in 1540 was recruited into a Portuguese mission to Goa, India. The Christianizing mission of the Jesuits was well suited to accompany the voyages to the Indies by Portuguese explorers, who saw as their duty not only the establishment of trading posts and colonies but the harvest of souls for the greater glory of the Christian church. Appointed a papal nuncio, or representative, Xavier left for India and the East Indies in 1542. His persuasive speaking and preaching gained converts at Goa, and he successfully established Christian missions along the coasts of India and in the Malay Archipelago. In 1549 he arrived at Kagoshima, Japan, where he became the first to introduce Christianity. Xavier set up several missions in Japan before returning to India in 1551. He left with a Portuguese embassy for China and in 1552 died on the island of Changcheun while seeking entry to China, then ruled by a Ming dynasty emperor. Xavier's body was collected and laid to rest at a Christian church in Goa, which became a popular shrine and place of pilgrimage for Christians throughout Asia. He was canonized along with Ignatius Loyola in 1622; Xavier eventually became the patron saint of India, the Philippines, Japan, China, New Zealand, and of all Christian missionaries.
See Also: Loyola, Saint Ignatius
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