Aug 9, 2015

Memorial day service in Hiroshima, 6 August


Almost all the Japanese Catholic Bishops and all the Japanese Anglican Bishops prayed together on the eve of the day of bombing of Hiroshima at the Catholic Cathedral of Hiroshima. It was the first time for both Catholic and Anglican bishops organised such prayer service to pray for the World Peace, Peace without nuclear weapons. Around 5 pm on 5 August, all the Bishops joined group of laity of both congregations, mainly youths, in front of the memorial tower in the Peace park. From there, all marched to the Catholic Cathedral for 40 minutes singing Japanese Christian song, "Amen, Hallelujah"


At 7 pm, ecumenical prayer service started with all the Bishops together with representatives from the World Council of Churches led by its vice moderator, Bishop Mary Ann Swenson of Methodist Church. Also present with us were 3 Tibetan Buddhist monks who, during the service, prayed for Peace with words by Dalai Lama XIV, "Words of Truth". Peace message was delivered by Bishop Swenson. Bishop Oscar Cantu, the chairman of the Committee on International Justice and Peace of United States Bishops, and Bishop Mario Iceta, Bishop of Bilbao, Spain also joined the prayer together with Archbishop Chennoth, Apostolic Nuncio. The Cathedral was full of people to pray for peace and it was quite significant occasion to see people from different denominations were united in just one cause, to establish real peace in this world.


Next morning Requiem Mass was said by Catholic Bishops presided by Archbishop Maeda of Osaka, previous bishop of Hiroshima till last year. (At this moment the see of Hiroshima is vacant.) Mass began at 8:15 am on 6 August, exact time of bombing, with ringing of bells of the Cathedral to join other bells of temples in the city.

70 years has passed since humanity saw such a great scale of man-made catastrophe Only with one single bomb, a city with four hundred thousand people was destroyed and more than ninety thousand lives vanished at once. Because of radiation related diseases more than one hundred and forty thousand people died before the end of that year.


No one actually knows why the US government decided to use two atomic bombs over Japan at the end of the WWII. Yes, it is widely believed that these two bombs over Hiroshima and Nagasaki expedited Japanese government to decide to surrender so that many lives of soldiers were saved. Maybe so. It is also said that as Japan was already losing most of its military capability at that moment in August, 1945, and its surrender was just a matter of time, two bombs were used to establish military superiority over Soviet Union in consideration of the new world order after the WWII.

I have no idea why they were used at that moment but what I know is so many lives were taken away so violently and inhumanly and so many people are still in agony, both physically and psychologically, and so many sad stories of each individuals, not only in Japan but also in other countries, were created. Justice was done? I do not know and I am not at the position to judge the history. I say the same as St.Pope John Paul II said in Hiroshima in 1981, "War is the work of man. War is destruction of human life. War is death."


What we learned from our recent experience during March 11, 2011 disaster in Tohoku is that human wisdom has clear limitations. Through our experiences of the disaster of earthquake and Tsunami, including aftermath of the accidents of the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant for which uncertainty still prevails after more than 4 years, we found out that we had been made to believe with false sense of confidence in our own human abilities and human wisdom. We thought science is almost almighty to solve any problem in this world. It was just a dream.

Also many of us found out we had lost sense of transcendent or sense of God who is far bigger than human being. This would be the result of terrible secularization in Japanese society. We thought that human being are able to control everything in this world with our technology and in such situation, God was no more needed.

"Pride leads to destruction, and arrogance to downfall (Proverb 16:18)." This disaster has been giving us warning that each one of us have to be humble enough to examine our life style and change our attitude from self pride to humility and obedience in front of power of God. And more over, we should know that we have limitations and science is not almighty.

I believe that nuclear technology, for both military and peaceful use, is still not under control of human knowledge. As for military purpose, no one knows what will happen if all the existing nuclear arms were really put in use. No one knows because it is almost impossible to imagine the end of human existence. But knowing the capability of extinction of ourselves by nuclear arms, those who have them plenty can not take initiative to abolish them because of fear against the other side. And still some others are trying to possess them in the name of preventive measures and self defense. Alas, what Pope St.John XXIIII wrote in the "Pacem in Terris" in 1963 are not taken seriously yet. Can't we stop these? Can't we stop thinking about existence of own countries alone but to make paradigm shift to think globally? We can not maintain our lives without support from others.. As in the Book of Genesis, 2:18, the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” We are created to be a helper for others so without supporting each other, we lose our very reason to exist.

As for peaceful use of nuclear energy, it is complicated matter. You might think what has been happening in Japan and Fukushima in particular is quite peculiar to the earthquake prone country. I do agree that nuclear energy is clean energy and might be useful to contribute to fight against environmental degradation. But at least this technology produces nuclear waste and human knowledge at this moment has no solution to manage them other than keeping them safe, probably under ground, for quite long period of time. We are surely leaving these nuclear waste for next several generations hoping that they may find better solution. I think this has a bit of unethical implication, at least for my faith.

Are we, human race in early 21 century, really ready to responsibly utilize nuclear energy or are we trying to close our eyes not to see our limitation?




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Jul 28, 2015

Time to contemplate and act for Peace.


Summer, especially in month of August, is the time to contemplate and act for peace in Japan. In 1945, on 6 August, Hiroshima was hit by the very first atomic bomb which was followed by Nagasaki on 9 August. Then on 15 August, Japan accepted unconditional surrender to allied forces which was the end of the WWII. So the Catholic Church in Japan decided in 1981 after the Hiroshima Peace appeal by Pope John Paul II, to designate this 10-day period, starting from 6 to 15 August, as a special 10 days to pray for peace.

This year, as we commemorate 70th anniversary of the end of the WWII, all the Japanese Catholic Bishops together with all Japanese Anglican Bishops gather together at Hiroshima on 5 August to pray together for peace at the Catholic Cathedral of Hiroshima in the evening.

Each diocese organizes their own Peace activities based on respective conditions. Niigata diocese usually organizes these activities on the last Sunday of July. This year it was on 26 July at the Niigata Cathedral.


As for this year's program, we invited Mr. and Ms. Katagiri, non-Christian couple from Niigata, who have been supporting education of indigenous kids in Eastern India. They have decided to establish a local  NGO in Niigata to cooperate with Indian local NGO to support education of kids and establish a boarding school for street kids. What surprised us is that they have started this activities after retirement from their jobs. It was inspiring to hear their experience and, also, future plan.

After the talk, I said Mass for Peace in the Cathedral. Unfortunately, it was terribly hot on the Sunday and not so many people could come to join us. However, there were more than 30 people to pray together for peace in the Cathedral.

Present Japanese government led by Mr. Shinzo Abe of the Liberal Democratic Party, LDP, has been trying to put through new bills to change national security policies. It has passed lower house of the Parliament and from yesterday debate has started in the upper house. Despite strong opposition from general public which one could see from number of people demonstrating around the Parliament these days calling the prime minister to withdraw the bill, Mr. Abe is determined to pass the bill as the LDP has majority of seats in both houses.

Of course, we do recognize sovereign right of the country to defend itself from any military advancement from out side the country. However, based on the historical experience of Japanese military aggression before the WWII, present Japanese Constitution prohibits the government to exercise military power outside Japan. In the article 9 of the Constitution you may read as follows.

Article 9.Aspiring sincerely to an international peace based on justice and order, the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes.

In order to accomplish the aim of the preceding paragraph, land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained. The right of belligerency of the state will not be recognized.

However, government has made several reinterpretation of the article which allowed Japan to establish the Self Defense Force (SDF) as minimum force for the self defense. However, according to the government explanation, because of change of security situation surrounding Japan and also expectations of the International community for more military contribution by Japan, this interpretation had to be changed.

It was already last year, the present cabinet changed the interpretation of the article 9 and decided to allow SDF to join other countries,such as the US army, to exercise the right of collective self defense though with limitations. Of course, for many other countries, such military exercise is not something foreign. However it is Japan which followed for 70 years the pacifistic constitution which does not presuppose Japanese military forces to exercise its military power on foreign territory. 

Japanese Catholic Bishops are against this move by the government and our thoughts are reflected in the message of Japanese Catholic Bishops on 70th anniversary of the end of the WWII.

Mr.Abe stresses the point that Japan has to take the policy of "Proactive Contribution to Peace" in order to respond expectations from other countries as economic giant. So he stresses that the change of the policy and new bills reflecting this change of the security policy which are under debate in the parliament at this moment  are necessary to proactively contribute to world peace.

Well, it may be so. However, as I contemplate the meaning of peace, I do believe what Japan could contribute to the world peace is not military capability but its long established activities of contribution to the world development, especially in the so-called developing countries. And I do believe contribution to the development which will bring the full respect and realization of Human Dignity would be appreciated and respected by the international society. 

Following is my homily to contemplate the meaning of "Peace" during the Mass for peace on 26 July in the Cathedral. 

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"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God"

We just heard so in the today's Gospel, Gospel of Matthew. And this same words of Jesus was used as the title of the Peace Message of Japanese Bishops issued in February this year to commemorate 70th anniversary of the end of WWII. The message of Bishops is concluded with following words.

"We are encouraged by the words of Jesus Christ, “Blessed are the peacemakers” (Mt. 5:9). Seventy years after the end of the war and 50 years after the end of the Second Vatican Council, let us renew our determination to seek peace and to work for peace. "

In this historical year for both general public and Church, 70th anniversary of the end of WWII and 50th anniversary of the Vatican II, we are witnessing past few months a possible major change in the Japanese national security policies. There are variety of opinions among politicians and general public to support or oppose the Government proposals in national security issue. Of course I am not going to make any comments on this issue now as national security issue is such a complex matter requiring to consider international politics and economy. However, as we are gathered together today to pray for peace in this Cathedral, I would like to take a moment to remind ourselves that which direction we, Christians, supposed to take as we proclaim and pray for Peace.  And we would like to remind ourselves that what do we really mean by "Peace." 

As Pope Paul VI wrote in the "POPULORUM PROGRESSIO" that "peace is not simply the absence of warfare, based on a precarious balance of power." (76)  It is not the situation where political stability is achieved through possession of the deterrent capabilities. It is not the situation where people just smile each other to maintain their cohabitation.

Pope John XXIII began his encyclical "Pacem in Terris" with these words to clarify meaning of "Peace" in teachings of the Church.

"Peace on Earth-which man throughout the ages has so longed for and sought after-can never be established, never guaranteed, except by the diligent observance of the divinely established order."

"Peace" which the Church has been teaching is the situation of the world where the "divinely established order" has been realized, or in other words, the situation of the world where all the creatures are in order as the Creator so wished.

In the encyclical, Pope John XXIII pointed out and stressed the point that the realization of the world according to the will of God was depending on the fulfillment of the rights and duties of human beings based on the natural law. That means if we seek "Peace" then we have to work for realization of these rights and duties in this society. In the encyclical Holy Father listed following rights as the one to be realized.

"The Right to bodily integrity and to the means necessary for the proper development of life, rights pertaining to moral and cultural values, the right to worship God according to one's conscience, the right to choose freely one's state in life, economic rights, the right of meeting and association, the right to emigrate and immigrate, and political rights."

As we can see from the list above, we may say that these rights are mostly included in the Basic Human Rights. Then Holy Father pointed out that "once this is admitted, it follows that in human society one man's natural right gives rise to a corresponding duty in other men; the duty, that is, of recognizing and respecting that right."

If so, we could say that unless these basic human rights were respected and realized, the "divinely established order" was not realized, and therefore, "Peace" was not achieved yet. And all of us are obliged to work to recognise and respect these rights.

So if we talk about "Peace" as Christian, it is not enough just to take action against war and conflicts, but also we have to take action against the reality of the society which prevents realization of these basic human rights.

Pope Paul VI wrote in the "POPULORUM PROGRESSIO" that "development, the new name for Peace."  As for Church, activities to fight against poverty and change the living conditions of those in challenged conditions and establish human dignity for all are action for "Peace." Pope Francis in the same sentiment proclaims that church should be the "church which goes forth" to the peripheries. In the recent encyclical, "Laudato Si," Holy Father reminds us that we are not fulfilling our duties as caretakers of the Creatures and stresses the point that taking action for environmental issues are obligation for the Church. Why so. Because it is also the action for "Peace" to establish proper order in every creatures.

Then based on our understanding of "Peace," peace of Christ, where shall we go considering the future of this country in relation to the current national security debate?

Pope John XXIII wrote in the "Pacem in Terris" as follows.

"The fundamental principles upon which peace is based in today's world be replaced by an altogether different one, namely, the realization that true and lasting peace among nations cannot consist in the possession of an equal supply of armaments but only in mutual trust."(113)

It is true that Church recognizes the right of defense as sovereign rights of a country to defend its people from evil act. At the same time, Church also sets clear limit to its practice so that act of self-defense should not be abused. While Church recognizes the importance of existence of military forces in modern world, it also calls for complete abolishment of arms since time of John XXIII. In the "Pacem in Terris" we could find this.

"Hence justice, right reason, and the recognition of man's dignity cry out insistently for a cessation to the arms race. The stock-piles of armaments which have been built up in various countries must be reduced all round and simultaneously by the parties concerned. Nuclear weapons must be banned. A general agreement must be reached on a suitable disarmament program, with an effective system of mutual control."(112)
Complete abolition of arms sounds like daydreamer's nonsense as we consider realities of modern world. However, the direction which Church wants us to take is quite clear enough. We have to discern what would be contributing for realization of "Peace" and what would be preventing that. We have to consider that integral human development which requires realization of all the basic human rights and dignified life condition is our way for Peace. Yes, we have to fight against poverty but fight against war and armed conflicts must be our priority in the efforts to establish "Peace" as these evil actions stand against human dignity and protection of our lives.

Let me conclude with words of Pope John Paul II in Hiroshima which is also quoted in the 70th Peace Message of Japanese Bishops.

“Peace must always be the aim: peace pursued and protected in all circumstances. Let us not repeat the past, a past of violence and destruction. Let us embark upon the steep and difficult path of peace, the only path that befits human dignity, the only path that leads to the true fulfillment of the human destiny, the only path to a future in which equity, justice and solidarity are realities and not just distant dreams."

Jul 14, 2015

Mass to commemorate 53 Blessed Martyrs of Yonezawa@Yamagata Prefecture


What is the meaning of martyrdom in modern world? We have a lot of martyrs in the early history of Catholic Mission in Japan. Our diocese also have quite a number of them whom we do not have any official records of names but we know that a number of Christians were executed because of their faith in 16 and 17 century.


In 2008, 188 of these martyrs from all over Japan were beatified in Nagasaki. Among them were 53 Martyrs led by Blessed Luis Amakasu Uemon in Yonezawa in present day Yamagata Prefecture in Niigata Diocese.

All these 53 martyrs were member of clan which served Uesugi family in 17 century. And these martyrs are teaching us the meaning of our life, which is the answer to the question; "What is the purpose of our life in this world?" Most important fact of these martyrs is not that they died but is how they lived, lived as witnesses of Gospel value.

Following is my homily during the Mass at Hokusanbara former execution ground where majority of these 53 Blessed Martyrs were killed on 12 January, 1629. Commemoration Mass was offered on Sunday, 12 July. The celebration should been on 12 January but as the official feast day for 188 Blessed martyrs is on 1st July and the city of Yonezawa is always under heavy snow in January, we celebrate the Mass for 53 Blessed on Sunday in July.

More than 100 people joined the Mass this year with 6 priests. I presided over the Mass under very hot Sun shine.


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What is the purpose of our life in this world? This is the question which 53 Christians of Yonezawa led by Blessed Luis Amakasu Uemon who were martyred on 12 January, 1629 had tried to answer throughout their lives.

What is the purpose of our life in this world? And this same question is in front of us, today, those who live after 400 years of these Blessed martyrs, waiting us to find answers in our lives.

We live in a world with plenty of information. Whether we like it or not, we have to maneuver through the tidal wave of information nowadays. Of course, there are important information which we may need to sustain our lives or give us joy and hope  but, at the same time, there are useless ones for our lives also. Once a while, within these wave of information, we encounter a cry of heart which leaves deep impact on our own hearts.

I just encountered such a cry of heart recently in the sad news of a Junior High student, a 13 year-old boy from Iwate prefecture, committed suicide after years of bullying, or IJIME, by school mates. In a TV interview, his grandfather said that the boy was bullied because "he was a boy with kind heart."

What is going on in our society where a boy with kind heart are bullied and cornered in to commit suicide? People with kind hearts are the one who cares for others and try to protect lives, aren't they? However the reality of this society is different. It does not allow a person with kind heart to survive through. What do we try to preserve in this society? What are our priorities? What is the purpose of our life today?

What do we know to answer this question based on our faith? In the Book of Genesis, after creating the first man, God said that 'it is not right that the man should be alone. I shall make him a helper.'(Gen.2:18) Then he created the other person. Therefore we are created and given this precious gift of life to be "helper of each other." And our lives are created as image of God with such magnificent dignity.

If that is the case, then, just worrying about ourselves and not caring for others does not fulfill our very reason of being in this world. We are to be helpers for each other. Therefore, we also have to realize that everyone in this world had been created to be helpers for ourselves and, thus, we ourselves are given a mission to be helpers for other people.

Caring for others, being kind to each other, helping each other, loving each other. All these do not depend on our personal characters but, rather, these are the very essence of being a human. We do so because we are missioned to be so by God our creator.

Pope Francis issued his Encyclical, "Laudato Si" on 18 June. This Encyclical treats the topic of environment, particularly the climate change issue, and call all people to take immediate action to fight against climate change. In the Encyclical, Holy Father wrote that when we consider our responsibility for future generations on the issue of protection of environment we reach the question of "what is the purpose of our life in this world?"

God created us and said, according to the Book of Genesis that " be fertile and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it. Have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, and all the living things that crawl on the earth." (Gen.1:28)

Holy Father explains in the Encyclical the meaning of this "dominion" over other creatures saying that God did not give us just freehand to do what ever we want over the creatures to satisfy our desires. Rather he made us steward of all the creatures so that we are all responsible to care for environment to create the world as God desires. And this responsibility is not only among present generation but is also for future generations.

Sometimes we hear criticism that stressing the point of protecting human life or protecting environment are for "weak people" and real "strong people" choose to fight. Is that really so? To protect human life or being a helper for each other is not an easy task to fulfil in this modern world. Sometimes it demands us to risk our lives. The reality of this society made a boy with kind heart to commit suicide. Protecting environment requires us to change our life style radically and it may arose quite a resistance among the circle who do not want to leave comfort zone of present life. These must be choices for "strong people." Fulfilling mission of God is the real choice for us which requires courageous decision.

And today, we have our ancestors in faith who sacrificed their lives to protect human life and being helper for others. Through their lives, they became witness of this mission of God to show other people what is the purpose of our life in this world.

With the intercession of these 53 Blessed Martyrs of Yonezawa, let us pray to God that we would have courage to be witnesses of this mission of God to show others the true purpose of our life in this world.

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After the Mass, participants shred BENTO meal together. Filipino community from Shinjo Church shred beautiful songs. Thank you for everyone to join the Mass.



Jun 23, 2015

On the new Encyclical of Pope Francis


Holy Father, Pope Francis, has issued his new Encyclical "Laudato Si" on 18 June. The new encyclical is on the theme of Ecology and Climate change. Especially the issue of climate change has been quite controversial and even before the publication of the Encyclical, we could hear number of voices critical against Holy Father to take popular stance which is pointing out human activities as the cause of global warming and climate change mostly because the counter measures may cause stagnation in economy and changing comfortable lifestyle of many countries, especially developed countries. However, Holy Father was clear enough to write as follows.

"Humanity is called to recognize the need for changes of lifestyle, production and consumption, in order to combat this warming or at least the human causes which produce or aggravate it. It is true that there are other factors (such as volcanic activity, variations in the earth’s orbit and axis, the solar cycle), yet a number of scientific studies indicate that most global warming in recent decades is due to the great concentration of greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide, methane, nitrogen oxides and others) released mainly as a result of human activity. Concentrated in the atmosphere, these gases do not allow the warmth of the sun’s rays reflected by the earth to be dispersed in space. The problem is aggravated by a model of development based on the intensive use of fossil fuels, which is at the heart of the worldwide energy system. Another determining factor has been an increase in changed uses of the soil, principally deforestation for agricultural purposes." (23)

We are called seriously examine our life style. We are called to seriously examine our relationship with each other and nature. We are called seriously examine our relationship with our creator, God. And we are called seriously examine our responsibilities for future generation.

Following is my comment on the Encyclical published by the Asianews a few days ago.

As for Caritas Internationalis, which recently completed its 20th General Assembly in Rome with the theme "One Human Family, Caring for Creation", environmental concern and climate change are one of main issues included within its action plan for next 4 years. Also Caritas Asia, for which I have been elected as a president for second term, has been seriously working for environmental concern through our sustainable agriculture program with number of member organizations in Asia taking into account climate change issue which have been causing serious problems over many farmers' living and working conditions in Asia. We do not have to travel a long distance in Asia to see the reality of environmental degradation caused by climate change through repeated major scale natural disasters in recent days.

Therefore, I am happy to receive this encyclical of Pope Francis which gives us solid foundation for our activities in this field and convincing teachings for Catholics to commit oneself to do something for ecology.  As Pope Francis repeatedly remind us that the charitable activities are not an option in our faith but rather a part and parcel of it, in a similar way Pope reminds us in this encyclical that all the faithful have obligation to do something for mother nature. It is made clear to all of us through the encyclical that taking good care of entire creation is part and parcel of our vocation. Also Holy Father reminds us to consider the consequence of our life style to future generation. So it is not enough to provide temporal remedy to the present crisis to rescue people affected by climate change and environmental degradation but also we have to always consider long term solution for future generations which may require us to change present comfoatble life style.

I am also happy because the encyclical has been written from the view point of so-called developing countries. Modern society has been controlled by less than 20% of population in so-called developed countries and policies to guide the international society often reflect the interest of this few group of people who has financial resources. However, as Holy Father knows the reality of people's life in Latin America, he stands with poor and marginalized and writes this encyclical from there. That is why there are several points in the encyclical which are hard for people living in comfortable conditions in developed countries to accept such as changing present life style and recognize that developed countries are owing much to developing countries as the former has exploited natural resources of the latter for years. So through the encyclical it is clear now to say that it is not because of generosity of rich countries to assist development of poorer countries but it is because rich countries are obliged to do so.

Catholic Bishops of Japan has just completed its annual general assembly in Tokyo. On the last day of the assembly, 18 June, Bishops organized a study session on the issue of nuclear power generation with number of experts and theologians as lecturers. Though direct mention against nuclear power generation is not found in the encyclical, at least its careful and wise use and also consideration to the local environment with involvement of local people for planning are found in several sections.

As it is well known, after the 11 March 2011 disaster in Fukushima, Japanese Catholic Bishops are advocating immediate abolition of more than 50 nuclear power generating plants in Japan which are prone to earthquakes. Of course we do receive quite a criticism over our position from general public and even from some Catholics saying that to maintain present life style and economy of Japan, the nuclear power generations can not be abolished.  That is exact the point in our message in November 2011 against nuclear power generation. We are not just calling for abolishment of the plants but also, at the end of the message, we are calling people to change our life style to reduce use of energy. Holy Father also mentions necessity to change life style of modern society which requires excessive use of energy and call for put more resources to develop renewable energy sources. I think Japanese Catholic Bishops have to be advocate of development of renewable energy sources in Japan and also call the government, business circle and general public to be responsible for future generation and also act responsible for the common good not only consider future of Japan alone but consider entire creation.

Jun 20, 2015

Confirmation Mass@ Noshiro and Tsuchizaki in Akita


There were two pastoral visits with confirmation in Akita district recently. One in Noshiro Catholic Church on 7 June and the other in Tsuchizaki Catholic Church on 14 June.

Both churches are quite far away from Niigata. It took me more than 5 hours to reach Noshiro by my car and also another 5 hours to reach Tsuchizaki. Noshiro is more than 300 km north from Niigata and could be considered as the northern end of my diocese.

A few years ago when I visited Noshiro, then parish priest was happy to welcome me saying that there were many people in the Church for Sunday Mass because of my visit. Then as people were singing entrance hymn, I found only 10 people there. Surprised I asked the parish priest why he had said "many". Then he told me that he usually had only 4 or 5 people for Sunday Mass.  That is the reality of missionaries life in northern part of my diocese.


Today, the parish priest of Noshiro is Fr. Felix Lobo, SVD from India. As we started Mass on 7 June, the feast of Corpus Christi, there were more than 18 people including small kid whose crying voice was sounded like a hope for blight future of the Church community. And we had the sacrament of confirmation during the Mass. A mother of that kid received the sacrament.  After the Mass, everyone sat down at the table to enjoy lunch box together. Though the number of the community is very few, singing during the Mass was quite strong and full of joy.


Then on 14 June, I again visited Akita to go to Tsuchizaki. Tsuchizaki is the second parish in the City of Akita. Akita parish is the biggest community with more than 700 in my diocese. Tsuchizaki might have more than 100 members and we had 6 people received the sacrament of confirmation during the Mass.

Parish priest is Fr.Kotaro Iino, SVD. We went to the SVD minor seminary in Nagoya together more than 40 years ago.


Singing by the choir with special costume of Samurai after the Mass during the lunch at parish hall was quite unique but good.


Meantime on 13 June, Bishop Goro Matsuura, an auxiliary of Osaka has been installed as a Bishop of Nagoya. Kindly pray for Bishop Matsuura and also for retired Bishop of Nagoya, Bishop Junichi Nomura. (I could not join the installation Mass at Nunoike Catholic Church, the cathedral of Nagoya on 13 June as I had to give a talk to PTA of an catholic elementary school in Kyoto)

Peace message of Japanese Catholic Bishops on the 70th anniversary of the end of WWII in Pacific.


The Catholic Bishops' Conference of Japan has issued a message for peace during its general assembly in February. The message was meant for 70th anniversary of the end of WW II in Pacific which we are to commemorate on 15 August this year. The government of Mr. Abe is also expected to issue their message of peace.

You may find the English translation of the Catholic Bishops message on this link.

The message of Japanese Bishops are, in fact, cry to the general public in Japan not to abandon our highly respected ideal for Peace which is prescribed in the post WWII constitution.

It is a reality that Japan could maintain its peaceful existence without any involvement in actual fighting for 70 years because of existence of Japan-U.S. Security Treaty. And it is well known that establishing the own Japanese made constitution has been the top priority in the political agenda of the Liberal Democratic Party which has been in power for many years, except for only a few years period, after the war. They
refer present constitution as something imposed by the occupation force.

For quite sometime, considerable percentage of Japanese public began to feel that the Japan is not really matured country as the constitution prohibits exercise of military power so that in order to become "normal country" Japan has to change its constitution to allow exercise of military force with other countries in solving international conflicts, though it should be contained in the notion of "self defense" and not the aggressive military maneuver.

Now I believe that those who want to commit Japan into actual war would be very minimum among general public. I believe Mr. Abe might be thinking himself as realistic politician who just want to make Japan as "normal country" with "normal" military power and I do not think he wants to draw Japan into actual war as such.

However, unfortunately, he may lack imagination for future of the country, I think. He will not be in power for ages to come. One day, probably in 2 to 3 years time, he will step down and someone else would be in power. There is no guarantee that LDP will continue to be in power forever. Then the system has to have clear cut identity which does not allow any biased interpretation. Vague terminology which allows any interpretation should not be used.

For example, Mr. Abe's security policy is the "Proactive Contribution to Peace". He guarantees that this does not mean military advancement at all. May be true. But who knows in future? As we all know, present constitution has been interpreted in several times which favors government's policy at the time to allow the self defense force to
grow stronger,  Now they can be deployed out side Japan, but only for peace keeping operation under UN. But because of clear cut ideal of no use of military force to solve international conflicts in the article 9 of the constitution, Japan was able not to be involved in the actual fighting. So article 9 was considered something as protecting wall of peace by us and, probably, stumbling block by realists.

We just want Japanese public to remind ourselves that Japan should be an evangelist of peace in this world. We should not abandon this ideal.

At the same time, we also want to disseminate Church definition of Peace. We are not only talking about peace as "No War" as such but we are talking about "Peace in this world, which is required for the respect and development of human life, is not simply the absence of war or a balance of power between adversaries. It is “the tranquility of order”  (Saint Augustine), “the work of justice” (Isaiah 32:17) and the effect of charity. Earthly peace is the image and fruit of the peace of Christ" (Catechism compendium 481). Our peace message is quite in political language but what we are talking about is a bit different from what general public and politicians are talking about. We use same term "peace" but, I believe, definition of that term is quite different and that is not understood by general public yet. That is why we receive quite strong criticism from "realistic" mind political people.

Apr 27, 2015

From Lent to Easter, 2015 (part two)


On 19 March, all the 16 Japanese bishops assembled in Rome for the Ad Limina visit. Last visit was in December, 2007 and Holy Father at that time was Benedict XVI. Though it is not the first time to meet Pope Francis as we met him in Korea for Asia Youth Day in last August, it was the first time to take time to sit together to share our concern on pastoral activities in Japan.

Yes, we all had chance to share our concern with Holy Father. This was my second Ad Limina visit. Last time, we had private audience with Holy Father for 15 minutes but for this time we all sat together with Holy Father for more than an hour only with translator. Among 16 Japanese Bishops, half of us are able to handle Italian and rest not. Unfortunately I belong to the latter and Holy Father used only Italian during the meeting. Well as we had good Japanese priest who has been stationed in Rome for several years as a representative of Japanese Bishops who did marvelous job of translation for us.

At the beginning of the meeting, each one of us were given chance to greet Holy Father individually and to take photo with him. (These two photos with Holy Father were taken by an official photographer and should not be reproduced.) I could manage to hand over a DVD on the relief activities of Catholic Church in Tohoku Area after the 11 March, 2011 disaster and also a prayer card from Our Lady of Akita Diocesan Shrine.


As usual, an official speech of Holy Father was prepared but he did not read it at all. Our president, Archbishop Okada of Tokyo also prepared his speech but he was also not given a chance to read it. Instead of exchange of formal greetings, Holy Father started with several questions on missionary activities and pastoral care in Japan. Holy Father's points which he raised vary from Family issue, marriage issue, environmental protection, educational ministry, vocation promotion, pastoral care for migrants to social action of the Church. What I remember clearly was his emphasis on the principle of subsidiarity on pastoral issues of local Church. He encouraged us by telling that we should not just wait for an order from the top in Rome, but as local pastors who know the local reality well bishops should have courage to make decisions and plans for their own diocese. He also mentioned the issue of liturgical translation and showed his understanding to pay respect to the decisions of local bishops conferences.  You may find in this link my interview by Asianews of PIME missionaries on the meeting with Holy Father. It was a wonderful and exiting moment to have time of sharing with Holy Father and I really think Pope Francis is a man with real pastoral mind and concern for people in need.


Other activities of Ad Limina from 19 to 27 are too many to mention here and each Bishops had different places to visit during the stay, I mean Roma Curia. However, at least for several places all the Bishops went together, such as Mass at the tomb of St. Peter and St. Paul, Propaganda Fide (Japanese Catholic Church is under the Propaganda Fide), Congregation for liturgy, Congregation for Saints and Secratriat of State. About Holy Father's pastoral visit to Japan? Well, we did not hear any concrete response. We will continue to invite him. Japanese government is also seriously trying to invite Holy Father to visit Japan. On the last day, we were invited by Japanese ambassador to the Holy See, Mr. Nagasaki for a dinner and discussed about our common strategy to invite Holy Father.

Then we came back to Japan a day before Passion Sunday. Now Holy Week began.