Apr 30, 2011

Warning: e-mail fraud

It seems certain e-mail in my name has been going around the world among Caritas people and SVD confreres asking for transfer of money to Democratic Republic of Congo. 

The address has "isao.kikuchi." for the local name and "@yahoo.it" as its domain.

This address is not mine.  And,therefore, the said e-mail is not from Bishop Isao Kikuchi, SVD.  Please kindly be advised that content of the said e-mail is not real nor true.

Sendai Diocese: Basic Plan for the New Creation

Bishop Tetsuo Hiraga of Sendai diocese, photo above, the most affected diocese by 3.11 earthquake and tsunami, announced on Easter Sunday of his policies for relief and rehabilitation of the diocese.  The policy is titled " Basic Plan for the New Creation."  Bishop has called his priests on 20 April, on the day of their Chrism Mass, and asked for cooperation of priests to implement the plan.

Bishop Hiraga puts three points as his basic principle.

  1. Church as "New Creation (II Cor. 5:17)" aims to cover all the affected area and people as far as possible while it will make intensive effort to be compassionate, encouragement, communion, support and companion to those area and people which will be neglected and forgotten.
  2. We would like to unite ourselves in the Lord while entire diocese would be involved in the process of being a "New Creation."
  3. Whole process of implementation of the plan would be achieved with pain of sacrifice.

Then Bishop Hiraga puts two pillars for the basic plan.

  1. To recognise the activities of the Sendai Diocese Support Center (SDSC) as the main activities of the Sendai diocese and entire diocese would cooperate with the center.
  2. To implement the plan "From 4 to 6 and 45".

The plan "From 4 to 6 and 45" is a support plan among the Catholic communities in the Sendai diocese.  According to Bishop Hiraga, Catholic communities in inland which are located along the National Highway 4 will support and accompany with Catholic communities on the coast which are located along the National Highway 6 and 45.  Thus the plan is called "From 4 to 6 and 45."  Entire Catholic Bishops in Japan have been asked by Bishop Hiraga to support this plan by sending additional personnel for the SDSC and also for the pastoral care in the inland churches of the diocese.  We may discuss about the possibilities to support this plan on 12 May during the Bishops' Conference Standing Committee and also during the General Assembly of Bishops in June.

Apr 24, 2011

Happy Easter!

Happy Easter!  The Lord Jesus is risen.  

We spent past 40 days of Lent with sorrow, pain, fear and anger in Japan after the massive earthquake and tsunami on 11 March.  Many people are still struggling to restore their everyday life and, still, many victims of tsunami are missing.  The nuclear power plant in Fukushima is still in critical condition and so many people have been forced to evacuate from their homes.  In fact, the incident in the nuclear power plant poses quite ethical question on us who have been benefited from the abundant supply of electricity to maintain our modern life style.  Are we ethically correct to use such amount of electricity produced by nuclear power plant which causes such a massive and long term damage over people's lives and environment once it went to out of control?  Are we ethically correct to use such a power plant which produces not only electricity but huge amount of contaminated waste which the future generations would be in charge to manage?  We are still in darkness.

Because of this situation in Japan, this year's Easter celebration was really meaningful for many as brightness of small fire on a candle reminded us shining hope of Jesus who is risen from the dead.  He is the one who will give us hope for new life.  He is the one who will make us rise from complete destruction.  He is the one who will show us the way for life.

We are all grateful to you from all over the world for your kind prayer, messages and donations to support victims in Japan.  Through your action, we are made aware that we are all part of the one body, Jesus Christ.  God bless you all.

Apr 19, 2011

Chrism Mass in Niigata

This year's Chrism Mass for Niigata diocese has been celebrated today, Holy Tuesday, at 10 am in Niigata Cathedral.  During the time of crisis such as the one in Japan at this moment since 11 March, Chrism Mass has such a significant meaning for the diocese.  For this Mass, majority of priests working in the diocese made effort to come together and con-celebrate with Bishop while several representatives of laity were also in attendance.  This signifies the real sense of unity of local church and made us feel strength of communion in our faith community.  We have to come together as one community to overcome this crisis.  We have to rediscover true meaning of solidarity to create one family of God in this country.  Almost all the priests, diocesan and religious, were in Niigata Cathedral today except Akita district which had sent 2 delegates to join us.  The distance of 350 km to reach the Cathedral made them difficult to join such diocesan activities.  Three important holy oils are consecrated and blessed during the Mass.

As Holy Father preached last year's Chrism Mass in Rome, "the holy oils are at the centre of the liturgical action. They are consecrated in the bishop’s cathedral for the whole year. They thus serve also as an expression of the Church’s unity, guaranteed by the episcopate, and they point to Christ, the true “shepherd and guardian” of our souls, as Saint Peter calls him (1 Pet 2:25)."

We prayed for victims of the recent disaster and also prayed for quick recovery for those who lost their normal life.  We really need true resurrection to complete new life.

I have to fly to Sapporo this afternoon to celebrate yet another Chrism Mass in Sapporo at 10:30 am tomorrow.

Apr 16, 2011

Sapporo diocese sends volunteers to Miyako

As the relief and rehabilitation operation of Sendai diocese are expanding its scale in cooperation with Caritas Japan, Sapporo diocese had decided to send its own volunteers to the Tsunami affected area.  Under capable and strong leadership of Very Rev. Fr. Uesugi, the Vicar General of Sapporo diocese, 7 volunteers from Hokkaido arrived at Miyako city on Tuesday, 12 April.  Miyako is a home town of myself, the Apostolic Administrator of Sapporo.  It seems that those from Hokkaido, the northern end of Japan, has easier access to Iwate as we could see police officers from Hokkaido stationed in Miyako in the photo above.  The seven volunteers have left Miyako yesterday after helping victims in Yamada town and Miyako city together with members of Miyako Catholic Church in cooperation with Sendai Diocese Support Center and the local government. According to Fr. Uesugi, Sapporo diocese has already prepared next 6 volunteers to go to Miyako next week.

Meantime, Bishop Hiraga of Sendai diocese is considering possibilities to appoint his diocesan priests in coastal parishes so that these priests could coordinate relief and rehabilitation operation of the diocese with faithful.  Then Bishop is considering to request rest of Japanese bishops to send priests to support apostolate of the diocese in inland area. 

Relief and rehabilitation operation is now entering its second stage, according to Fr. Daisuke Narui, SVD, Caritas Japan director at the spot.  Local government are now concentrating to find possibilities to construct temporary housings for those who lost their house by Tsunami and earthquake.  However, because of its harsh geological formation in the area without much flat land, the local government are in difficulties to find suitable places for these temporary housings.  Prefecture government are prohibiting the local governments to construct houses in the tsunami hit area in fear of secondary disaster.  Once people are moved into the temporary housings, then NGO will start yet another phase of rehabilitation operation of supporting them in several ways including mental support.

Apr 10, 2011

Photos from Miyako and Taro

Near by the Miyako City Office in central Miyako city.

At the Miyako fishery port.

Center of Taro town.  In the middle, you may see a remain of the massive protective wall which once surrounded entire town.

The remain of the protective wall in Taro.

Taro town from a hill in front of the port of Taro.

The San-no rock wall which was not affected by the Tsunami at all.

Visit Sendai and Miyako

On Friday afternoon, a meeting was called in the office of Bishop Hiraga, Bishop of Sendai, to discuss about the plan to coordinate relief and rebuilding efforts of Sendai diocese.  Since Bishops Conference had expressed their desire to support Sendai diocese for its effort to rebuild the diocese and appointed me as a coordinator, I have asked Bishop Hiraga to call the meeting among major players of the effort at this moment.  Number of key persons attended the meeting including Bishop Tani of Saitama with his diocesan Caritas coordinator, staff members of Caritas Japan led by Fr. Narui, a team from Osaka diocese led by Fr. Kanda and Fr. Komatsu, the Sendai diocesan chancellor and the SG of the SDSC.  A team from Osaka was invited because of their rich experience during the earthquake in 1995 and Fr. Kanda was one of the local leaders in relief and rehabilitation effort in Takatori area in Kobe. (Photo above:  Miyako city destroyed)

During the meeting, Bishop Hiraga announced his policy of the reconstruction of the diocese which had two major points.  First and most, the Sendai Diocese Support Center (SDSC) will continue to be the main activities of the diocese for relief and reconstruction.  Secondly, he may assign his diocesan priests in coastal area to oversee relief and reconstruction activities and request other dioceses in Japan to send priests to support pastoral care of the inland area.  In order to make formal request to other bishops, Bishop Hiraga will announce concrete plan very soon.

After the meeting, I traveled with Fr. Sakamoto of Niigata to Morioka.  Usually it takes around 2 hours or more to reach Morioka from Sendai, but we spent more than 5 hours on Friday because of the yet another major earthquake on Thursday night.  Because of the strong earthquake on Thursday, one of the strongest after the biggest one on 11 March, the Tohoku express way was damaged and part of it was closed.  That was why we took much more time to travel.  By the way, Cathedral main chapel was also affected by the earthquake on Thursday.

Then I visited Miyako on Saturday.  Miyako is my hometown where I was born and baptised.  At that time, my father was a catechist and mother was a teacher in the parish KG.  The parish priest, Fr. Marco Antonio De La Rosa, MG, and Ms. Kato, the head teacher of the KG and my childhood friend, were waiting for us.  On the day of the earthquake, Fr. Marco was in his hometown in Mexico and just returned a few days ago despite his friend's objection to go back to Japan because of the radiation crisis.  The Miyako parish was not affected by tsunami.  On the day of the earthquake, Ms. Kato had to take all her kids in the KG to near by mountain to take refuge in the Shinto shrine there.  Then after the tsunami subsided, she had to look for a place to stay over night for these kids.

She took us to Taro where she lives with her family.  As you know, Taro had been the most well protected town against Tsunami in Japan.  Despite all the tall protection walls, majority of the town was completely washed away including Ms. Kato's house.  Her family member was safe but had to look for a place of refuge in her friend's house.  It was impossible to believe when I saw the town.  There was nothing left for human habitation.  Massive concrete walls are destroyed and scattered around in the bay.  Ms. Kato told me that "the mother nature just wanted to go back to her origin so that she destroyed every man made structures.  The wave could manage to destroy massive concrete structure into pieces but it did not do any harm to the famous San-no rock wall.  The rock is just a high and slim wall standing in sea but nothing happened to that creature.  So we may have to look into our life style. Maybe we are just doing something completely against to mother nature."  It could be true. (Photo above: Taro town destroyed)

Apr 1, 2011

Caritas Japan continues its relief effort in Sendai

At this moment, according to the government announcement, there are more than seventeen one hundred and seventy thousand (170,000) people evacuated and staying in numbers of shelters, mostly public facilities and halls. More than eleven thousand dead has been confirmed and over sixteen thousand people are missing. Local government will built temporary houses for victims but the construction may not begin for next one or two month in most of the affected area. According to the present regulation of government, these temporary housings will be provided only for 2 years to the victims.

Caritas Japan and Catholic Church, especially Sendai diocese, will try to assist victims while they are in shelters for next 2 to 6 month and after they are provided temporary housings. While they are in shelters, they may need medical attention which has been provided mainly by local governments and Red Cross.  National government is trying to re-establish transportation network so that food, water and medicine will reach shelters. As for NGOs such as us, what we would concentrate is to visit these people in shelters to listen to their stories and try to make stay in shelters comfortable as much as possible. There are not so much privacy in shelters so one of the Catholic NGOs are providing partition or room divider made out of cardboard. There are number of people who lost their family members. There are people suffering from survivor guilt. Many can not understand why they survived and why their loved ones not and began to feel guilty. They need psychological attention. There are the grief care institute run by Jesuit Sophia University which was established after 2009 train accident in Osaka. We may ask their assistance to support victims.

Bishops conference have just decided on 24 March that entire Catholic Church in Japan should work together to support relief effort of Sendai diocese and they appointed me to be a coordinator of this program.

After the victims are provided temporary housings, since quite high number of victims are aged or elderly people in these rural area of Japan, we may have to organize volunteers to make regular visit of houses to make sure they will be provided necessary assistance both material, physical and mental. We do not have our own medical staff who are specialist for psychological care in Caritas Japan, but we may consult with Catholic Doctors Association for help since these effort will be done under the initiatives of Bishops Conference.

We are already in contact with local governments to provide volunteers to clear the affected area. After tsunami, there are so much of rubble or wreckage and much more manpower is needed.  Caritas Japan is cooperating with Sendai diocese to manage the Sendai

Diocese Support Center (SDSC) to coordinate relief operation of the Church. We have sent 2 staff members of Caritas Japan to the SDSC. According to their reports, 2 lines of mobile phone of the center never stop ringing from people all over Japan inquiring possibilities to join the operation as volunteers. Tokyo office of Caritas Japan had to ask support staff from other section of the Bishops Conference to handle so many numbers of donations. We had same experience in 1995 when we made a donation campaign for Rwanda refugees crisis but I think response from general public and Catholic community in Japan is much more enthusiastic than 1995.

For the area, economy would be badly damaged. Especially in the affected area in Sendai diocese, majority of people are farmers and fishermen. Farmers lost their farming lands which had been soaked in sea water. Fishermen lost their ships in Tsunami and their famous aquafarming system had been completely destroyed. It would be very hard for them to re-build their houses and, at the same time, re-establish their profession. Then the crisis of the nuclear power plant are affecting farmers of Fukushima whose farms escaped Tsunami but affected by radiation. I really have no idea how long it may take to restore their normal life.