Religious authorities in India's Goa region this year will celebrate Mass in Spanish for the first time in memory of St. Francis Xavier, a 16th-century Spanish missionary whose remains are periodically displayed there.

"Last year, several groups of Spanish visitors asked us to have a Mass in their language, and since we have a Latin American priest we decided to include a Mass in Spanish in the program," a source with the Bom Jesus church told Efe.

The church in Goa, a former Portuguese colony with a heavy Catholic presence, celebrates its annual festival in memory of the saint between Nov. 24-Dec. 3.

"We're intending to celebrate Mass in the languages of the people who visit us, such as Malayalam, Tamil, Marati, Hindi and Portuguese. We believe that there will be as least small groups in Spanish (here) on the day of the Mass in that language, Dec. 3," the source added.

Francis Xavier was a Jesuit missionary from Spain in charge of spreading Catholic doctrine in different territories in Asia, including Japan, Borneo and China.

After his 1552 death in Shangchuan, China, his body was transferred first to Malacca and later placed in the Bom Jesus basilica, one of the oldest churches in Goa.

Once per decade, the church publicly displays his body and many devotees consider it to be a miracle that it has not decomposed, although skeptics point to the fact that the remains were embalmed to prevent just such an eventuality.

The last time the saint's remains were publicly displayed was in 2004. EFE