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.

From Lent to Easter, 2015 (part one)

Breaking a spell of silence for a while, for more than a month, I am feeling obliged to continue to my chronicle of events in my diocese and also in Catholic Church in Japan. I was too busy to do both Japanese and English blogs throughout month of March as I was overwhelmed by my busy schedule.

On 14 and 15 March, I went to Shizuoka Catholic Church for two-day Lenten Recollection for parishioners of the Shizuoka area organised jointly by Caritas Japan and the parish.

In fact it was immediately after the Caritas Asia Regional Conference in Bangkok on 11 and 12 March in which I was re-elected as the President of Caritas Asia. Then I rushed back to Niigata on 13 March to preside over the evening prayer service with the Eucharistic Adoration at our Cathedral in Niigata for which Holy Father invited all the Cathedral in the world to organise such day of prayer of the Lent. Then following morning, I travelled to Shizuoka.

The parish of Shizuoka has peculiar parishioners, as far as I am concerned, my mother and a family of my younger brother. My mother is still strong at the age of 84 but could not join the recollection, maybe it would make her miserable to listen to her own son preaching.

The recollection was the continuation of Caritas campaign against hunger and, as I did so in Osaka a few weeks ago, I spoke about the reality of poverty and hunger in the world and what we could do to eradicate hunger by 2025. As Holy Father once mentioned in his message to the Caritas campaign, there are enough food to feed all people on the Earth. However, we are wasting one third of total produce for quite selfish reasons.

Then on 16 March in the evening, I was in Nagasaki, one thousand kilometer south west of Shizuoka, to join the celebration of 150th anniversary of discovery of the Hidden Christians. There might be no need to repeat the famous story of discovery of Japanese catholics at Ohura Catholic Church on 17 March, 1865 after 250 years of persecution period. At that time missionaries and priests were arrested and executed with Japanese Christians. The very last remaining priest was executed in 1644. No priest was left behind in Japan and several attempts to send Missionaries to sneak into Japan all failed.

On 17 March, several Mass were celebrated in Ohura Catholic Church, itself is the National Treasure of Japan, and 10 am Mass was designated as the official commemoration Mass celebrated by all Japanese Bishops with Papal delegate, Cardinal Quevedo.

I was interviewed by Asianews, the international Catholic news site by PIME missionaries, and you may find the article on this link of the site of PIME Asianews.