May 20, 2009

From Russia with love

We have guests from Far East Russia for past few days for whom our youth members organised dinner party this evening in Niigata Cathedral parish hall.

Last year, I organised 2 groups from Niigata to visit Khabarovsk. We visited the Catholic community there and celebrated Mass together, though I could say Mass only in English with a Japanese translator for my homily. As you know well, Russian Orthodox Church is very strong and having good relationship with the present government. If you enter the city of Khabarovsk, you may immediately notice several new Orthodox Churches built in vantage points of the city. Catholic community is very tiny minority in Russia and especially in Far East. In spite of the difficult situation,still number of people gather for Sunday Mass and there exists a Catholic Parish in Khabarovsk. The Parish Priest is a young Argentinian, Fr.Marcelo who speaks in addition to his native Spanish, Russian, Italian, English and Latin. Yes, he used to be a Latin teacher. So he communicates with me in English, Fr.Otaki in Italian, Fr.Raul in Spanish and Fr.Machida in Latin, especially when Fr.Machida got enough beer.

Thanks to the effort made by the former parish priest, an American Maryknoll Father Fr.McCabe, the Catholic community has quite a good relationship with Orthodox hierarchy in Khabarovsk. Because of that, late Cardinal Hamao was a special guest of the Orthodox Archbishop of Khabarovsk when the cardinal brought a relics of St.Chrysostom from Rome to the Orthodox seminary in Khabarovsk and I also was able to meet with the Archbishop last year. In addition to this relationship, 10 years of tireless activities of Japanese sisters, the Presentation Sisters from Kamakura, Japan, really made good impression among many citizens in the city. Unfortunately, Sisters decided to return to Japan at the end of last year.

As it takes only 2 hours to fly from Khabarovsk to Niigata, and as it takes more than 4 hours to fly from Khabarovsk to Irkutsk where the Catholic bishop has his see, I decided to visit the Catholic community to show solidarity as their brothers and sisters in the same faith and as a bishop of neighbouring community. I hope to encourage more people from Niigata to make regular visit to Khabarovsk so that we may establish good relationship between 2 Catholic communities over the Japanese Sea.

So this evening, 20th May, our youth in Niigata welcomed Mr.Valentine, 17 years old, with typical Japanese food, curry with rice. He spoke in Russian which was translated into Spanish by Fr.Marcelo and again translated into Japanese by Fr. Raul.

Since there are 2 flights a week between Niigata and Khabarovsk, on Mondays and Fridays, they will return home on coming Friday.

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