Sep 22, 2014

Hiroshima landslides

Hiroshima, well known city as symbol of nuclear bombing tragedy, was hit by heavy rainfall on 20 August this year. Massive rainfall was record breaking for meteorology in Hiroshima and it caused several landslides in hill side of the city, especially in the Asa-kita district and Asa-minami district. 74 people lost their lives and more than 300 houses were lost.

Hiroshima diocese immediately responded through newly established diocesan disaster support center. Fr. Harada is in charge of it. Fr. Harada opened a volunteer center in Gion Parish in Asa-minami district which has been under pastoral care by Jesuits. The volunteer center has been named the Caritas Hiroshima Volunteer Base and Caritas Japan is supporting its activities same as Tohoku area.

Almost a month has passed and I finally found time to travel to Hiroshima to visit the area on 17 September with Mr. Tadokoro, the director of Caritas Japan.

We were welcomed by Bishop Maeda of Hiroshima, who has been transferred to Osaka as its archbishop recently. As you may see from photos, small stream of the hills behind these housings turned to be giant river and swept away everything standing on their way including massive rocks and trees which, in turn, destroyed number of houses.

Volunteers and Fire Fighters are working hard to clear the area. One of victims of the area, who is a Catholic and their house was intact, told us that they are afraid to return to their home for more than 50 years since such heavy rain might occur again and again.

Diocese of Hiroshima will continue to be with affected people and will contribute to rebuild communities.

Sep 12, 2014

Summary of activities during August. Part 5

And a little more activities of August. After the Singapore conference, I flew to Sri Lanka to attend the capacity building workshop for South Asia sub region organised by Caritas Sri Lanka and Caritas Asia from 26 to 28 August in Colombo. More stories at the site of Caritas Sri Lanka.

More than 20 participants from South Asia Member Organisation of Caritas plus 30 or more participants from Sri Lanka. Human trafficking has been serious issue to tackle for Caritas Asri Lanka for years as quite a number of domestic workers from Sri Lanka face number of difficulties in Middle East countries.

Hon. G. J. L. Neomal Perera, Deputy Minister of External Affairs, Sri Lanka, delivering his address. The Chairman of the Catholic National Commission on Migrants, Rt Rev Dr Harold Anthony Perera (center) and Fr George Sigamoney, the National Director of Caritas Sri Lanka (right) watching.

My welcome address.

Sep 9, 2014

Summary of activities during August. Part 4

The Social Mission Conference 2014 organised by Caritas Singapore on 23 August in Singapore. Main theme of this annual event was "I want a church which is poor and for the poor", the word of Pope Francis. I gave a 45 minutes of the theological reflection on the theme. For this one day event, more than 700 people came to join.

Archbishop Goh of Singapore giving his opening remarks.

More than 700 people gathered to attend the event at Catholic Junior College.

My presentation.

Associate Professor Irene Yh Ng of National University of Singapore (left) answering questions after her talk on the "Social Realities of the Poor"

Lunch was "BENTO", or lunch box. In fact, "BENTO" is a Japanese word for lunch box.

Ms. Wendy Louis, executive secretary of the Office of Laity and Family of the FABC, giving her response to my presentation. On the stage are candles used by Taize group for prayer.

Summary of activities during August. Part 3

On 17 August at the martyrs shrine of Hemi, 90 km south of Seoul, Holy Father met with Asian Bishop led by Cardinal Gracias, the president of FABC. According to the press, there were 68 bishops from 35 countries and territories. It was raining heavy during the meeting.

Then after lunch with Bishops, Holy Father celebrated open air closing Mass of Asian Youth Day. Fortunately, rain stopped just before the Mass.

Asian Bishops entering the Martyrs Shrine of Hemi.

Cardinal Grancias, the president of FABC, greeting Holy Father.

Lunch with Bishops.

 Closing Mass for the Asian Youth Day.

Youths from all over Asia.

Summary of activities during August. Part 2

Then immediately after the celebration of Assumption in the Cathedral, I took off to Seoul, Korea from Tokyo to join other Japanese Bishops and other Bishops from all over Asia. Why? Because Holy Father, Pope Francis was there visiting Korea from 14 to 18 August, mainly to be with youths from all over Asia attending Asian Youth Day. Also Pope Francis beatified 124 martyrs of Korea on 16 August in Seoul city.

Holy Father celebrated open air Mass "in front of Gwanghwamun Gate in the main square in Seoul before a crowd that numbered about 800,000, according to estimates by organizers of the event. This was the site of the torture and execution of many Korean martyrs in the 18th and 19th century." (Wall Street Journal website) It was quite Hot but cloudy summer day in Seoul!

Waiting for arrival of Holy Father on the stage beside the alter. So these are more than 800,000 people in front of us.

After the Mass, trying to find way out from the site as people were rushing to the alter to take photos.

The alter prepared for the beatification Mass. Behind the stage is the Gwanghwamun Gate. There used to be a huge building which was demolished s few years ago. That was the memory of sad past history of Japanese colonization, the building of Japanese Governor during Japanese colonial rule. The painting behind the alter is not a real painting but LCD screen.

Summary of activities during August. Part 1

Summer has almost gone. Before every memories would be swept away into oblivion, let me share some of major events of this summer with photos.

On 12 August in Takada Church, celebration of St.Clare with Sisters of the Poor Clare in Takada. You may see, after some 10 years, there is a novice in the community. Thank God.

On 15 August, the Grotto of Niigata Cathedral was blessed before Mass for its 60th anniversary of creation.

During Assumption Mass in Niigata Cathedral, a young man received sacrament of Confirmation.

Also two little boys received their First Communion during the Mass on 15 August.

Aug 3, 2014

"You yourselves give them something to eat!"

In Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of Gospel), there are two key words for Pope Francis as he explores the root causes of social justice issues which are "exclusion and inequality." For example, in denouncing the modern economic system he writes as follows.
Just as the commandment “Thou shalt not kill” sets a clear limit in order to safeguard the value of human life, today we also have to say “thou shalt not” to an economy of exclusion and inequality. Such an economy kills.(53)

Then he explains these two terms as follows.
How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points? This is a case of exclusion. Can we continue to stand by when food is thrown away while people are starving? This is a case of inequality. (53)
It is no longer simply about exploitation and oppression, but something new. Exclusion ultimately has to do with what it means to be a part of the society in which we live; those excluded are no longer society’s underside or its fringes or its disenfranchised – they are no longer even a part of it. The excluded are not the “exploited” but the outcast, the “leftovers”.(53)

On the 18 Sunday of ordinary time, Gospel message was from Mathew 14:13-21, the famous story of five loaves and two fish. Based on this gospel passage, Caritas Internationalis has been campaigning against world poverty which is called "One Human Family, Food for All" campaign and will continue till May 2015. Caritas Japan is also joining this campaign and using "Five loaves and two fishes" as our title of campaign in Japan.

In Evangelii Gaudium, the key image of the Church is the "Church which goes forth", so he explains his understanding as follows.
Each Christian and every community must discern the path that the Lord points out, but all of us are asked to obey his call to go forth from our own comfort zone in order to reach all the “peripheries” in need of the light of the Gospel.
Then he explains as we go forth, what would be our priorities.
If the whole Church takes up this missionary impulse, she has to go forth to everyone without exception. But to whom should she go first? When we read the Gospel we find a clear indication: not so much our friends and wealthy neighbours, but above all the poor and the sick, those who are usually despised and overlooked,(48)
We should not just wait for someone to take action to reach out to those excluded or discriminated. It is us to take action as Jesus commanded disciples that "you yourselves give them something to eat!" Jesus did not want his own flock to be dispersed and find solution for their problems on their own. Rather he prefers to keep his flock together despite heavy burden and give sufficient consideration and care among each other. No one should be excluded. No one should be forgotten.

It is not just talking about food issue. It is also the same for making peace. As we have been witnessing brutal killings of innocent civilians especially children by military forces and armed group in Gaza for past few weeks, we should know that weapon and sword could not bring peace but death, exclusion, hatred and division. I think, as some politicians are claiming recently, we may need peculiar kind of courage to claim that military power could be deterrent power to prevent war. We have to avoid any way to divide people, any people because we all belong to one and only flock of God. This is high time that we should learn the way to give sufficient consideration and care among each other so that we may be able to build one united flock of God.  And that is not the duty of someone else, not for politicians, not for world leaders, but the duty of all of us because Jesus commanded that we should not rely on others but we ourselves give them something to eat.

Pope Francis is visiting Asia for first time soon. He will be in Korea from 14 to 18 August. Japanese bishops are also invited to join the celebration with Holy Father. I will be there on 16 to attend the beatification Mass of 124 martyrs and on 17 for closing Mass of Asia Youth Day. As he comes to us, we have to be ready to respond to his call to "go forth".