This article originally appeared on VICE Canada.
Angèle Regnier, a Catholic woman from Ottawa, is traveling across Canada with a 500-year-old severed arm.
To be more specific, it’s the almost 500-year-old detached right forearm of Saint Francis Xavier. Fingers and all.
Saint Francis Xavier is one of the more popular saints in Catholicism (he’s not like those other saints; he’s a cool saint). His body is classified as “incorrupt,” which means it hasn’t decomposed like regular flesh. The church says it’s a miracle.
“When you can come closer you can see that there is meat on those bones, this is an arm,” said Regnier in a CBC interview. She’s going to be boarding flights across Canada so people in 14 cities can also experience the bony, dead arm.
Flying with a dead arm, as goth as it sounds, is a bit of a logistical nightmare. Regnier has to book the arm its own seat on the plane because it’s blessed a bunch of people or something. So it’s too “sacred” for her to toss in the overhead compartment.
“It’s his right arm, so it’s the arm that he would have baptized and healed and done all the amazing things with,” Regnier told CBC. “The Archbishop [of Ottawa] had friends who worked with Air Canada that could connect us to another person—so they were people of faith that weren’t completely weirded out by what we were saying.”
But anyways, back to the important question: Why the fuck does the Catholic Church have a sacred, severed arm to give away?
This is where stuff gets wierd. The church actually has the saint's entire body preserved, and they pretty much have been casually cutting off parts to send to different places that need it. His right arm was detached from his body in 1614 to send to Rome because they wanted physical evidence that the body hadn’t decayed. Japan has a hand. Some countries have lamer parts, like his intestines. There isn’t really a system to decide which part goes where—it’s kind of a free for all. Though sending one country his intestines while another gets his arm that has “baptized tens of thousands of people” seems like a good way of telling an entire nation to fuck off.
Regnier herself only got the arm when she got the Archbishop of Ottawa, Terrence Prendergast, to make the request of Rome on her behalf. The church agreed, but she had to retrieve the arm from Rome herself.
She didn’t mind.
“It’s like doing a road trip with a friend,” she told CBC. (This is a ridiculous comparison but could also be the premise of a buddy road trip film that I would definitely watch.)
The arm, of course, has special casing to protect it from the elements and peoples’ gross hands. Rome also gave Regnier a special duffle bag lined with foam and Plexiglas to travel with. But perhaps most importantly, she has special paperwork from the Vatican to show authorities when they ask her why she’s traveling with a 465-year-old severed right arm.
Regnier and the arm will be touring Canada from January 3 to February 2. Then it heads back to Rome to rest, presumably in peace.
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