Mar 4, 2014

Third anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake is approaching

The third anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake, 11 March, is approaching. Past three years, Catholic Church in Japan mobilized all the Catholic communities in Japan to assist the disaster hit area which is almost all under the Sendai Diocese with a title of the "All Japan" framework. Immediately after the disaster in 2011, Bishop Tani and myself together with Caritas Japan staff members went to Sendai to meet Bishop Hiraga of Sendai diocese and his chancellor, Fr. Komatsu on 16 March in which we decided to establish the Sendai Diocese Support Center (SDSC). That was the beginning of the "All Japan" framework to assist victims in Sendai diocese. Since then, Caritas Japan has been supporting all these activities of relief and rehabilitation in Sendai diocese with long term planning thanks to huge donations from Japan and abroad.

During last general assembly of Japanese Bishops in February, as I have mentioned, Bishops decided to continue this "All Japan" framework for another three years. Catholic Church in Japan will continue our efforts of rehabilitation and Caritas Japan is also ready to support these activities.

Obviously the leading role of reconstruction of the disaster hit area ought to be the local people of the area and Church should not continue the activities just to maintain status quo of our own initiatives. We have to foresee the termination of present activities one day. However, as we know, Church has been in Sendai diocese before the disaster, and it was in Sendai during the disaster and it will be in Sendai for years to come. That means Catholic Church in Japan will never stop our efforts to be with people in the disaster hit area, though our style of commitment may change.

So many people came to join our program as volunteers. There are a lot of different ways to support the local people in the area. Probably there might be some who feel sorry as they were not able to visit the area because of various reasons. In fact, I am also the one. When disaster happened in 2011, I was in charge of two dioceses, Niigata and Sapporo, and was just elected as president of Caritas Asia at that time. Then as a president of Caritas Japan, I was put in charge of the entire operation of the "All Japan" framework. So numerable meetings prevented me to find time to visit the disaster hit area. I am feeling sorry about this. At the same time, my own experience in Caritas activities for long time, such rehabilitation program requires both people on the ground and behind the lines. I hope everyone of us in Catholic Church in Japan to find our own and unique role in this "All Japan" operation and, even though one can not go to the disaster hit area, join the effort of Catholic community in Japan with ones unique way as a part of one body of Christ.  As a Christian, one can even support the activities with prayers. Also it is imperative to be sensitive to the information from the area.

I have a coordination team for the "All Japan" framework. This team coordinates all kinds of initiatives from Catholic communities in all over Japan to assist disaster hit area and also provides platform to exchange information. The team is managed by Fr. Kanda of Osaka diocese and Mr. Hamaguchi, an employee of Osaka diocese. Without these two men who have rich experiences of disaster relief management from Kobe earthquake in 1995, I could not achieve anything. Fr.Narui, SVD, the former Caritas Japan director has joined the team since he was appointed as the SVD generalate JPIC secretary as long as he has time to spare.

Caritas Japan has issued a report of activities in Sendai disaster hit area for past one year. You may find it both in Japanese and English and may download PDF file in this link.

This is the first time for Caritas Japan to organise such disaster relief operation inside Japan itself. We did collection of relief fund for victims of disaster in the past. But what we are doing at this moment is a long term rehabilitation program. On behalf of Caritas Japan, I would like to thank all of you who donated generously to support victims through our program in Sendai diocese. We will continue our efforts.

Bishops Conference of Japan is organising a commemorative Mass of the third anniversary of the disaster at 6 pm on 10 March at Sendai Cathedral, Motodera-Koji Catholic Church. You are welcome to join us.

President of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Japan, Archbishop Peter Okada of Tokyo has made his message public in Japanese. You may read it in Japanese in this link.

In his message, Archbishop Okada highlighted importance of principle of subsidiarity in such relief operation. Though three ecclesiastical provinces, Tokyo, Osaka and Nagasaki, has established their own center for activities in disaster hit area, these activities are complementing the charitable action of local Catholic community of Sendai. Therefore, these provincial centers are part and parcel of charitable activities of Sendai diocese and not acting for its own merits.

Also in his message, Archbishop reiterated the contents of the November 2011 Bishops Message on abolition of nuclear power plants saying that the general direction of Japan after three years of the Fukushima accident is shifting opposite to what Bishops called for in the message. And he put emphasis on the importance of changing life style as necessary step to abolish nuclear power plant. It is not the matter of searching alternative energy sources without changing our life style which just consumes a lot of energy. The original message says as follows.
Christians have an obligation to bear genuine witness to the Gospel especially through the ways of life expected by God; “simplicity of life, the spirit of prayer, charity towards all, especially towards the lowly and the poor, obedience and humility, detachment and self-sacrifice”.We should choose anew a simple and plain lifestyle based on the spirit of the Gospel, in cases like saving electricity. 

In Niigata diocese, all the parishes are asked to say commemorative Mass on Sunday 9th March. I will celebrate Mass at Niigata Cathedral at 9:30am on 9th March. You are welcome to join us in prayer. 


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