Apr 27, 2015

From Lent to Easter, 2015 (part two)

On 19 March, all the 16 Japanese bishops assembled in Rome for the Ad Limina visit. Last visit was in December, 2007 and Holy Father at that time was Benedict XVI. Though it is not the first time to meet Pope Francis as we met him in Korea for Asia Youth Day in last August, it was the first time to take time to sit together to share our concern on pastoral activities in Japan.

Yes, we all had chance to share our concern with Holy Father. This was my second Ad Limina visit. Last time, we had private audience with Holy Father for 15 minutes but for this time we all sat together with Holy Father for more than an hour only with translator. Among 16 Japanese Bishops, half of us are able to handle Italian and rest not. Unfortunately I belong to the latter and Holy Father used only Italian during the meeting. Well as we had good Japanese priest who has been stationed in Rome for several years as a representative of Japanese Bishops who did marvelous job of translation for us.

At the beginning of the meeting, each one of us were given chance to greet Holy Father individually and to take photo with him. (These two photos with Holy Father were taken by an official photographer and should not be reproduced.) I could manage to hand over a DVD on the relief activities of Catholic Church in Tohoku Area after the 11 March, 2011 disaster and also a prayer card from Our Lady of Akita Diocesan Shrine.

As usual, an official speech of Holy Father was prepared but he did not read it at all. Our president, Archbishop Okada of Tokyo also prepared his speech but he was also not given a chance to read it. Instead of exchange of formal greetings, Holy Father started with several questions on missionary activities and pastoral care in Japan. Holy Father's points which he raised vary from Family issue, marriage issue, environmental protection, educational ministry, vocation promotion, pastoral care for migrants to social action of the Church. What I remember clearly was his emphasis on the principle of subsidiarity on pastoral issues of local Church. He encouraged us by telling that we should not just wait for an order from the top in Rome, but as local pastors who know the local reality well bishops should have courage to make decisions and plans for their own diocese. He also mentioned the issue of liturgical translation and showed his understanding to pay respect to the decisions of local bishops conferences.  You may find in this link my interview by Asianews of PIME missionaries on the meeting with Holy Father. It was a wonderful and exiting moment to have time of sharing with Holy Father and I really think Pope Francis is a man with real pastoral mind and concern for people in need.

Other activities of Ad Limina from 19 to 27 are too many to mention here and each Bishops had different places to visit during the stay, I mean Roma Curia. However, at least for several places all the Bishops went together, such as Mass at the tomb of St. Peter and St. Paul, Propaganda Fide (Japanese Catholic Church is under the Propaganda Fide), Congregation for liturgy, Congregation for Saints and Secratriat of State. About Holy Father's pastoral visit to Japan? Well, we did not hear any concrete response. We will continue to invite him. Japanese government is also seriously trying to invite Holy Father to visit Japan. On the last day, we were invited by Japanese ambassador to the Holy See, Mr. Nagasaki for a dinner and discussed about our common strategy to invite Holy Father.

Then we came back to Japan a day before Passion Sunday. Now Holy Week began.

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