Jun 28, 2014

National Meeting of diocesan directors for Sendai relief and support met in Fukushima.

National meeting of diocesan directors for relief and rehabilitation activities on the Great East Japan Earthquake (2011) met in Koriyama Catholic Church, Fukushima prefecture, from Tuesday 24 June to Thursday 26. More than 70 people attended the meeting. Participants were either diocesan directors appointed by respective bishops in charge of relief and rehabilitation activities in disaster hit area in Sendai diocese (Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima) or their collaborators. Each of 3 ecclesiastical provinces have their own base of activities within Sendai diocese under the coordination of Sendai Diocese Support Center and Bishops' Conference Support team for which I am in charge. (Photo above: waiting for an opening session in Koriyama Catholic Church in Fukushima prefecture)

The participants were divided into three groups for area visits, one for Iwate, the other for northern Fukushima and the last one for southern Fukushima. Entire group met on Wednesday evening in Koriyama. I joined the third group which went around southern Fukushima for two days.
First day of the group 3. We visited Shirakawa city, southern end of Fukushima, to meet with a local counseling group led by Catholics to visit temporary housings for evacuees from Nuclear Power Plant accidents. We also went to Iwaki to meet with evacuees of Tsunami who are preparing to move into government provided new housings from temporary residence. (Photo above: Ms.Kanazawa, a leader of the house visit and counseling group, "MIMIZUKU" of Shirakawa city sharing her experience)

On the second day, we visited town of Naraha and Tomioka quite close to the Fukushima Daiichi (NO.1) nuclear power plant. We could pass by the Fukushima Daini (NO.2) nuclear power plant and approached to the Daiichi. Then the road was blocked by police barrier in Tomioka. The local government of Naraha are preparing to return to the original community but even the officials of the town were not so sure how many people would actually come back. Then Naraha town which is closer to the Daiichi power plant has been divided for the area for which residents are able to return and the area for which residents are unable to return. Inside the town, we could see one side of the road is restricted and the other not. Community are divided. People are divided. (Photo above: Officers of the Naraha town office showing the participants of the group three how to measure radiation)

On Thursday morning, we met in Koriyama Catholic Church to listen to stories of 8 people working in Fukushima prefecture for evacuees. There were so many different stories. Even though the rehabilitation program moves very slow, those in Iwate and Miyagi have, at least, some hope for future. But those in Fukushima, especially those near to the nuclear power plant have difficulty to find hope for future. Already some decided not to return. What would be happen to these local communities which are already losing their residents because of aging society. (Photo above: JR Tomioka Station after 3 years of Tsunami. Becasue of radiation, residents are not allowed to return and, thus, the station and town hit by tsunami remains the same)

The meeting ended with Mass by Bishop Hiraga of Sendai at Koriyama catholic church on Thursday afternoon. Since then I have moved to Akita to stay with members of the Seitai Hoshikai till Sunday.(Photo above: Inside the town of Tomioka. In front, there are barrier to prevent anyone to enter. Right hand side is the area to which residents are not allowed to return. Left hand side, residents are expected to return in near future.)

Through the meeting in Koriyama we leaned a lot about complex situation in Fukushima. Japanese Bishops are against nuclear power plants in Japan. At the same time, Bishops are calling to change present life style in Japan which consumes a lot of energy. Of course, Bishops do know that we can not force Catholics to have same opinion over this issue with us. We know there are different opinion within Church itself. We know there are voices against return to Fukishima because of radiation. We also know there are voices assuring safety of Fukushima. But what we can say is that ordinary people's ordinary life was destroyed in many ways and into many directions because there had been nuclear power plants in Fukushima. As we see the reality of people in Fukushima, we are not able to keep our mouth shut. So much issues in different levels have been mixed together to be the cause of difficulties for people's everyday life and that makes objective discussion almost impossible.

In any case, the point is quite clear. Come and see the reality of people. People are deprived of their ordinary life. It is quite a challenge for most of them to claim them back. Majority in the society do not care anymore of the difficulties which people in Fukushima face everyday in order to maintain their daily life. Even though they are not responsible to what has been happened in Fukushima, people have to take responsibility to make choices of their life. This is not the issue contained within the boundary of Fukushima prefecture. It is the issue for entire Japan and we should not forget daily sufferings of people in Fukushima. Communities are divided. families are divided. Firends are separated. All for what reason? (Radiation meter in front of Futaba town temporal police station.)

Jun 7, 2014

Interviewed by the Vaticaninsider

I had been interviewed by thc Vaticaninsider a few days ago on the present situation in Fukushima and the activities of Caritas Japan. It was published a day before the visit of PM of Japan to Holy Father on 6 June.

You may follow the link of UCAN below.


A comment of the President of CBCJ on visit of PM Abe to Holy Father

The President of Catholic Bishops' Conference of Japan (CBCJ), Archbishop Peter OKADA of Tokyo, has just issued a statement on visit of Japanese Prime Minister, Mr. Shinzo Abe, to Holy Father on 6 June at the Apostolic Palace in which PM of Japan invited Holy Father to visit Japan. Following is a full text of Archbishop's statement.

Comments on the News that Prime Minister Abe
Has Invited Pope Francis to Japan
It has been reported that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe met with Pope Francis on June 6 and invited the Pope to visit Japan. Pope Francis, a servant of Christ working for peace, guides Catholics as head of the Catholic Church in the world and the sovereign of the Vatican City State. Japan has long valued its diplomatic relations with the Vatican City State, and this invitation can be regarded as a part of that attitude on the part of Japan.
Meanwhile, in October 2013, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Japan sent the Pope a letter requesting the honor of his presence in Japan. However, we have not yet received a letter of acceptance.
Today on this occasion, I, as the President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Japan, have prepared some brief comments so that those within and outside of the Church can understand why we earnestly desire to invite the Pope to Japan.
1.     We truly wish that the Pope would visit the East Japan Great Earthquake disaster area and pray with people there. We desire from the bottom of our hearts that the Pope will listen to the voices of those who are suffering from the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant Accident that occurred due to the earthquake. We hope that the Pope will join us in praying for divine support and assistance for the decades-long work of reconstruction and coping with the accident. Based on our belief that the nuclear accident was ultimately caused by human arrogance, we have begun a campaign to abolish nuclear power plants. We hope that Pope Francis will bless our efforts and convey this appeal to the world.
2.     We Japanese people deeply regret our past conduct that led to the Second World War, and have promulgated the Constitution of Japan, known as the Peace Constitution, under which Japan forever renounces war. Since then we have carried on as a nation which refuses to wage war, and we have contributed to world peace. We are sure that such conduct will be well received by the Pope. As is well known, Japanese citizens who have maintained Article 9 of the Constitution have been nominated as candidates for the Nobel Peace Prize. We sincerely wish that the Pope would encourage and inspire the Japanese people who have such a wonderful Constitution and continue to appeal to the world for the renunciation of war.
       Moreover, as Saint John Paul II did 33 years ago when he visited Hiroshima and Nagasaki, we fervently hope that Pope Francis will appeal to the world to not repeat the tragedy of war anymore.
3.     The Catholic Church in Japan hopes that the beatification of Ukon Takayama, a Christian feudal lord, will be realized in the near future. We would be overjoyed if the Pope could preside at the beatification ceremony in Japan. In addition, on March 17, 2015, we will celebrate the 150th anniversary of the discovery of the Hidden Christians who had kept their faith under severe persecution. Their existence was revealed at Oura Catholic Church in Nagasaki. We would be deeply grateful if Pope Francis would encourage us in deepening our faith and conveying widely the message of faith to others. We also expect that a visit by the Pope would be an occasion for promoting and advancing inter-religious dialogue in Japan.
Pope Francis plans to visit South Korea this August, then Sri Lanka and the Philippines next year. If a visit to Japan by the Pope is realized, we believe it will be an especially encouraging opportunity for the many Japanese people who seek peace. It will also be a special occasion for the poor, and those who sorrow and suffer to feel close to the love of God.
We, the Japanese bishops, are determined to pray and make every effort to make possible a visit of the Pope to Japan. We deeply appreciate your understanding.
June 7, 2014
Peter Takeo Okada, President
Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Japan