Oct 3, 2012

Commemoration Mass of 53 Blessed Martyrs in Yonezawa

Memorial and Thanksgiving Mass of the 53 Blessed martyrs of Yonezawa was celebrated on 9 September at the site of martyrdom of the martyrs led by Blessed Luis Amakasu in Yonezawa city, Yamagata which is in Niigata diocese. As we are preparing for the august celebration of the centenary of Niigata Diocese in October 7 and 8, this years' event in Yonezawa was limited for the parish and its out-station.

However, more than 40 people joined the open air mass including a group from Tokyo led by Fr. Fujioka of Tokyo diocese  After the Mass, Mr. Mori who is a local historian and a member of the Catholic Church in Yonezawa took us around to visit several historical sites related Christians in 16 or 17 century and also invited us to visit a local family who kept important historical materials concerning Christians at that time of martyrdom in their house.

Hokusannbara is the name of the place in Yonezawa city where 53 Christians were killed on 12 January 1629. They have been beatified with other martyrs from all over Japan, though the Yonezawa group was the biggest in number, in 2008 and called Blessed Peter Kibe and his companions. According to the liturgical calender, 1 July is their feast day.  Because of hot summer heat, we decided to shift the celebration in Yonezawa to September.

Old documents describing the situation of martyrdom from the time of martyrs which is 17th century.  These documents have been kept in a wooden box in a house of former land owner of the area who was a wealthy farmer.

Local Shinto Shrine kept a Marian statue as their Mercy Goddess   According to the local historian, this must be one of evidences of existence of quite a number of Christians at that time in this area of Yonezawa.

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