May 29, 2011

Caritas Internationalis completed its 19th GA in Rome

Caritas internationalis has just completed its 19th General Assembly in Rome and started its new 4 year period with a new set of executive committee with a new secretary general while re-electing Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga, SDB as its president.  The assembly started in Domus Mariae in Rome on 22 May with Holy Eucharist celebrated solemnly by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Secretary of State.  It was attended by more than 300 participants from all over the world including around 40 bishops.  Caritas Japan was represented by Fr. Daisuke Narui, SVD and I also participated as the in-coming President of Caritas Asia.

Though there must have been well-founded reason existing on the side of the Holy See, however, it seems to me that good intent of not to hurt anyone in public of all parties involved made the "nihil obstat" story took on a life of its own.  It was the GA with ostensive presence of Holy See among the participants this time compare with my previous experiences of 3 GA in 1999, 2003 and 2007.  It was, honestly, quite strange to meet Fr.Timothy Radcliffe OP among the participants who shared no specific role to play even though he had prepared a talk beforehand, so I heard.  Fr. Cantalamessa's talk was deep in spirituality and Cardinal Peter Turkson's talk was inspiring but I had hard time to connect these talks with the main theme of the GA which was "One Human Family, Zero poverty".   The president of Cor Unum, Cardinal Sarah's talk was quite in the context of Caritas activities and gave us quite an insight.   I do understood that the presence of the Holy See was needed to deepen the dialogue between Holy See and the Caritas in order to finalise the new text for its Statutes and Internal Rules which have to conform with the the public canonical legal status granted by Blessed Pope JPII in 2004.  Catholic identity was at stake, so I was told by speakers and there exists need to deepen theology of Caritas.  Sounds quite familiar in Japan.  In many Catholic institutions, Catholic identity is at stake for quite sometime and we have been struggling to find an answer for it.  Revised texts were not satisfactory reflecting these thoughts yet and, thus, were not presented for voting.  The new team of Executives will work closely with the Secretariat of State to come with much more deepened texts soon.  Already, the new bureau (the president and 7 regional presidents) have met with the officials of the Secretariat of States on Saturday morning to begin the dialogue in cordial atmosphere.

The 19th General Assembly re-elected H.E. Oscar Cardinal Rodriguez Maradiaga, SDB, as its president for the second term, Mr. Juerg Krummenacher as its treasurer, and Mr. Michel Roy as its new Secretary General (Photo below).  Also the GA endorsed the Strategic Framework 2011 to 2015.  The Strategic Framework has 4 objectives which are; "Compassion in action; Promote integral Human Development; A stronger more effective confederation; and Advocacy for a better world."  Also the GA approved the financial framework for next 4years.

All 7 regional presidents were presented for ratification and with the positive votes of the GA, they became the vice presidents of the CI.  They are Fr. Erny Gillen (First Vice President, Europe), Bishop Francisco Silota (Second Vice President, Africa), Bishop Fernando Bargallo (Latin America), Bishop Isao Kikuchi (Asia), Mr. Joseph Farah (MONA), Mr. Michael Casey (North America), and Msgr. Gery Burns (Oceania).   Asia is represented in the Executive Committee by Indonesia and Sri Lanka.

On Friday, 27 at noon, Holy Father received all the participants in private audience.  With this and holy Eucharist celebrated by Cardinal President, we closed the GA with deep sense of unity and more determination to work as witness of love of God.       

May 21, 2011

On my way to Rome.

I am leaving for Rome today to attend the general assembly of Caritas internationalis.  The meeting will begin tomorrow, Sunday 22 May and close on Friday, 27 May.  If possible, I will report from the scene.

May 18, 2011

Cardinal Sarah prayed for victims of Tsunami in Sendai

The president of the Pontifical Council "Cor Unum", Cardinal Robert Sarah visited Japan from 13 to 17 May to bring message of condolence and hope from Holy Father to the victims of recent earthquake and  tsunami in eastern Japan.  On 14th morning, Cardinal was accompanied by Bishop Tani of Saitama to visit Iwaki city of Fukushima prefecture.  The area was damaged by tsunami and also still suffering from the crisis in the nuclear power plant.  In the afternoon of 14th, he joined 13 Japanese bishops to attend the thanksgiving Mass for the beatification of JPII in Tokyo Cathedral.  After the Mass, Cardinal was joined by the apostolic nuncio, Archbishop Alberto Bottari de Castello, and the president of Japanese Catholic Bishops Conference, Archbishop Leo Ikenaga of Osaka to travel to Sendai by Shinkansen train.  Bishop Hiraga of Sendai also accompanied the group.

On 15th Sunday, Cardinal presided over the Holy Eucharist in English at the Sendai Cathedral.  After the Mass, he was taken to several volunteers' bases in Miyagi area which have been established by Caritas Japan in cooperation with the Sendai Diocese Support Center (SDSC).  In Shichigahama beach, he offered a prayer for victims of tsunami and also offer flowers according to the Japanese tradition.  Then he visited Ishinomaki where Catholic Parish has been serving as a base for volunteers sent by Caritas.  City of Ishinomaki has been badly damaged by tsunami.  Cardinal was invited to visit an evacuation center in Ishinomaki to meet with victims.

On 16the Monday, after early morning Mass in the Sendai Cathedral, Cardinal visited Matsushima town and was welcomed by a mayor of the town.  This courtesy visit was made possible through the vice mayor of the town who used to work as a volunteer in Kobe during the 1995 Hanshin Awaji earthquake disaster.  During that time, the vice mayor met with Fr. Kanda of Takatori Catholic Church and, since then, two are linked with friendship.  The town responded to our request to arrange for a prayer service offshore by allowing us to join the sightseeing boat of the town and offer prayer on the boat.  Massive number of victims are still missing.  Many were dragged into sea by returning tsunami wave.  So that we asked Cardinal to offer prayer at the sea. (Photo above)  Cardinal prayed in Italian and sprinkle Holy Water over the sea and offer flower.  Several number of News Agencies had sent their reporters for the event.

After the Matsushima prayer, Cardinal made courtesy visit to mayor of Sendai city. (Photo above)  The mayor was happy to meet with Cardinal not only because of his message of hope from Holy Father but also because of historical background between Sendai and the Holy See.  Between 1613 to 1620, a delegation led by Franciscan Luis Sotelo and Hasekura Tsunenaga was sent to Europe at Lord Date Masamune's order.  Lord Date Masamune's headquarter was in Sendai.  Hasekura Tsunenaga who was baptised in Spain a few months ago was received in audience by Pope Paul V on 3 November, 1615.  He was also granted Roman citizenship. Following is an excerpt of an article in Mainichi English newspaper on 12 May on the background historical fact between Sendai and Rome.

(The Japanese government) said it will ask UNESCO by March 2012 to include in the heritage list the Midokampakuki diary written by high-ranking noble Fujiwara no Michinaga (966-1027) and the Keicho Ken-O Shisetsu records featuring relations with Europe shortly before Japan began closing itself to other countries in the 1630s in the Edo Era.

(The Keicho-ken-O Shisestu) record is a set of some 50 items showing diplomatic and cultural exchanges with Europe, including a Roman citizenship certificate which Hasekura Tsunenaga brought back after traveling in Europe at Lord Date Masamune's command.
Since Hasekura Tsunenaga met with Holy Father 400 years ago, Sendai city is planning to send a delegation in 2013 to commemorate the historical event.  The director of the Sendai City museum presented Cardinal Sarah several books on the visit of Hasekura Tsunenaga to Europe and asked for the understanding and support of Holy See to the commemorative activities.

The team returned Tokyo in the evening of Monday. Then Cardinal Sarah has left Tokyo for Rome on 17 May.

May 10, 2011

Cardinal Sarah to visit tsunami hit area

President of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum, Cardinal Robert Sarah is scheduled to visit Japan from 13 to 17 May as a special delegate of Holy Father.  Cardinal Sarah will visit Iwaki in Fukushima on 14 morning and several tsunami hit areas in Sendai in Miyagi on 15 and 16.  He will also join the thanksgiving Mass for the beatification of JPII in Tokyo Cathedral on 14 afternoon and preside over the Sunday Mass on 15 at Sendai Cathedral. (Photo above:  right, Cardinal Sarah in 2006 as a secretary of Propaganda Fide; center, Cardinal Levada of the Doctrine of the Faith; left, Cardinal Ivan Dias of the Propaganda Fide)

Originally from Guinea in West Africa, Cardinal Sarah was appointed the Archbishop of Conakry, the capital of his native country, in 1979 when he was only 34 years old.  In 2001, he was appointed as a secretary of the Propaganda Fide and promoted to be a president of the Cor Unum in October, 2010.  He was made Cardinal in November, 2010.  As a secretary of the Propaganda Fide, Cardinal Sarah is well known among Japanese Bishops and also he is well acquainted with the situation of Catholic Church in Japan.

The Pontifical Council COR UNUM for Human and Christian Development was established by Pope Paul VI in 1971.  According to the web page of the Holy See, Cor Unum's objectives are as follows.

  • To assist the Pope and be his instrument for carrying out special initiatives in the field of humanitarian actions when disasters occur, or in the field of integral human promotion;
  • To foster the catechesis of Charity and encourage the faithful to give a concrete witness to evangelical charity;
  • To encourage and coordinate the initiatives of Catholic Organizations through the exchange of information and by promoting fraternal cooperation in favour of integral human development.

Cor Unum also oversees Caritas Internationalis.  By the way, just a related story to the photo above, Holy Father accepted today resignation of Cardinal Ivan Dias, the prefect of the Propaganda Fide, upon reaching age limit of 75.  Holy Father appointed Archbishop Fernando Filoni as the new prefect of the Propaganda Fide.  Archbishop Filoni has been serving as the substitute of the State Department of the Holy See since 2007.  Being a substitute of the State Department is quite important for entire Catholic Church's decision making process since the post is to work quite close with Holy Father.  But his new post is also quite important for local Churches in mission territory, such as Japan.  For the mission territory, local churches are under the jurisdiction of the Propaganda Fide and bishops' appointments are oversaw by the Propaganda Fide and not by the congregation for bishops.  It is important.

May 5, 2011

Baptism in Shinjo

On 1 May, all parishes in Niigata and Sapporo diocese celebrated thanksgiving Mass for beatification of late Pope John Paul II.  I celebrated the Mass with the Shinjo Catholic community in Yamagata district.  Majority of parishioners of Shinjo are mothers from Philippines, those who had been invited by local governments to be wedded to local farmers.  There are only 2 Japanese as their original members and rest of them, probably more than 100 are from Philippines.  Of course, these mothers bring their kids for baptism, therefore the Shinjo community is one of the youngest in average age in Niigata diocese.

On the day of beatification of JPII, Shinjo Catholic Community welcomed 2 additional members as a father and his son were baptised during the Mass.  Mother of the child and, of course, the father's wife is also from Philippines.  Congratulations!  Now the community got one and only grown-up Japanese male member.

To join the celebration of baptism, Fr. Honma came with a group of parishioners of Yamagata.  After the Mass, all of them joined a party in which we enjoyed wonderful Filipino foods and professional singing by one of them.