May 18, 2011

Cardinal Sarah prayed for victims of Tsunami in Sendai

The president of the Pontifical Council "Cor Unum", Cardinal Robert Sarah visited Japan from 13 to 17 May to bring message of condolence and hope from Holy Father to the victims of recent earthquake and  tsunami in eastern Japan.  On 14th morning, Cardinal was accompanied by Bishop Tani of Saitama to visit Iwaki city of Fukushima prefecture.  The area was damaged by tsunami and also still suffering from the crisis in the nuclear power plant.  In the afternoon of 14th, he joined 13 Japanese bishops to attend the thanksgiving Mass for the beatification of JPII in Tokyo Cathedral.  After the Mass, Cardinal was joined by the apostolic nuncio, Archbishop Alberto Bottari de Castello, and the president of Japanese Catholic Bishops Conference, Archbishop Leo Ikenaga of Osaka to travel to Sendai by Shinkansen train.  Bishop Hiraga of Sendai also accompanied the group.

On 15th Sunday, Cardinal presided over the Holy Eucharist in English at the Sendai Cathedral.  After the Mass, he was taken to several volunteers' bases in Miyagi area which have been established by Caritas Japan in cooperation with the Sendai Diocese Support Center (SDSC).  In Shichigahama beach, he offered a prayer for victims of tsunami and also offer flowers according to the Japanese tradition.  Then he visited Ishinomaki where Catholic Parish has been serving as a base for volunteers sent by Caritas.  City of Ishinomaki has been badly damaged by tsunami.  Cardinal was invited to visit an evacuation center in Ishinomaki to meet with victims.

On 16the Monday, after early morning Mass in the Sendai Cathedral, Cardinal visited Matsushima town and was welcomed by a mayor of the town.  This courtesy visit was made possible through the vice mayor of the town who used to work as a volunteer in Kobe during the 1995 Hanshin Awaji earthquake disaster.  During that time, the vice mayor met with Fr. Kanda of Takatori Catholic Church and, since then, two are linked with friendship.  The town responded to our request to arrange for a prayer service offshore by allowing us to join the sightseeing boat of the town and offer prayer on the boat.  Massive number of victims are still missing.  Many were dragged into sea by returning tsunami wave.  So that we asked Cardinal to offer prayer at the sea. (Photo above)  Cardinal prayed in Italian and sprinkle Holy Water over the sea and offer flower.  Several number of News Agencies had sent their reporters for the event.

After the Matsushima prayer, Cardinal made courtesy visit to mayor of Sendai city. (Photo above)  The mayor was happy to meet with Cardinal not only because of his message of hope from Holy Father but also because of historical background between Sendai and the Holy See.  Between 1613 to 1620, a delegation led by Franciscan Luis Sotelo and Hasekura Tsunenaga was sent to Europe at Lord Date Masamune's order.  Lord Date Masamune's headquarter was in Sendai.  Hasekura Tsunenaga who was baptised in Spain a few months ago was received in audience by Pope Paul V on 3 November, 1615.  He was also granted Roman citizenship. Following is an excerpt of an article in Mainichi English newspaper on 12 May on the background historical fact between Sendai and Rome.

(The Japanese government) said it will ask UNESCO by March 2012 to include in the heritage list the Midokampakuki diary written by high-ranking noble Fujiwara no Michinaga (966-1027) and the Keicho Ken-O Shisetsu records featuring relations with Europe shortly before Japan began closing itself to other countries in the 1630s in the Edo Era.

(The Keicho-ken-O Shisestu) record is a set of some 50 items showing diplomatic and cultural exchanges with Europe, including a Roman citizenship certificate which Hasekura Tsunenaga brought back after traveling in Europe at Lord Date Masamune's command.
Since Hasekura Tsunenaga met with Holy Father 400 years ago, Sendai city is planning to send a delegation in 2013 to commemorate the historical event.  The director of the Sendai City museum presented Cardinal Sarah several books on the visit of Hasekura Tsunenaga to Europe and asked for the understanding and support of Holy See to the commemorative activities.

The team returned Tokyo in the evening of Monday. Then Cardinal Sarah has left Tokyo for Rome on 17 May.

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