Nov 30, 2011

Visitation of the convent of Poor Clares in Takada@Joetsu

After the Priest Senate meeting on Monday and Tuesday in Niigata Cathedral, I had to travel to Takada in Joetsu city.   It was 2 hours drive through Hokuriku motor way to south from Niigata.   I had to travel to Takada for the official visitation of the convent of Poor Clares. There are a community of Poor Clares Sisters in Joetsu which was invited by my predecessor, late Bishop Sato who was a Franciscan.  The community of Takada in Joetsu is under a local bishop and according to their statute, the local bishop has to make an official visit every 3 years.  During the visitation, an election of mother superior and her assistant has to be conducted and the bishop has to be present with the community.   Also before the election, I have to interview all the members of the community.   So these are my official duties as Bishop of Niigata.
There are only 7 members in the community and 2 out of these 7 are residing outside the convent because of their age and health.   So I had to meet with only 5 members. It is a small community.

Today Sr. Gushiken was elected as mother superior of the community and present superior, Sr.Ohmi was elected as an assistant.  They are a small community but obediently offer daily prayers for us to support the apostolate of Niigata diocese.  Their prayers are powerful.   So it is also our duty to pray for them, especially for their vocation.

 Photo above is a front view of the convent and below is inside the convent. Of course, this is a section open to public.

Nov 27, 2011

Feast day of Christ the King @ Niigata Cathedral

This year's Christ the King feast was on 20 November according to the Catholic liturgy calendar and it was the last Sunday of the year before we begin a new cycle from first Sunday of Advent on 27 November.  Our Cathedral in Niigata has been dedicated to Christ the King and, thus, 20 November was a feast day for the Cathedral community.  As usual, I celebrated a Mass in which one young student originated from Akita has been confirmed and a 8-year-old boy received his first communion.

There were much more to celebrate during the Mass.  As I have been celebrating my own silver jubilee of priestly ordination this year, I had been contemplating how to organise.  Then March 11 happened.  Since there are so many people still struggling to restore their normal lives after the disaster, I decided not to organise a big party as such.  So I decided to offer Mass of thanksgiving on the feast of Christ the King with the community.  Parish community was so good to organise a small lunch party after the Mass in parish hall for me and those who received sacraments.  Photo above is a sign written by one of parishioners to congratulate me.  Thanks a lot.

Also after the Mass, 2 crucifix were blessed and sent out to go around parishes in the diocese.  Our diocese is celebrating 100 anniversary of establishment as the apostolic prefecture and 50 years as the diocese in 2012.  So the planning committee of the celebration decided to organise a crucifix relay.  2 identical crucifix will visit all parishes in the diocese starting from 20 November and will come back to the cathedral in October next year during the Diocesan convention.  The crucifix will travel with a note book and members of parish communities may write their own message for the anniversary celebration to enforce unity among the community of the diocese. 

Nov 23, 2011

The 100th ExCo of Caritas Internationalis @ Rome

Immediately after the Japanese Korean Bishops' meeting in Sendai, I traveled to the eternal city to attend a meeting of Caritas Internationalis (CI) for a few days.  The headquarter of CI is located within the Palazzo San Calisto in Trastevere area just adjacent to a beautiful Basilica di Santa Maria in Trastevere.  The Palazzo is a part of the Vatican territory and several offices of Holy See has offices within.

The meeting was the Executive Committee of Caritas Internationalis which is chaired by its president, Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga of Honduras.  Caritas is celebrating its 60th anniversary of foundation this year and this meeting was the 100th session of the Executive Committee which acts as the highest decision making body of Caritas Internationalis between its General Assemblies.  I attended the meeting as the President of Caritas Asia which is, at this moment, according to the present CI Statute, one of 7 Vice Presidents of the CI.  Asia was represented by delegates from Indonesia and Sri Lanka.  The regional coordinator of Caritas Asia, Fr. Bonnie, could not attend the meeting because of Visa difficulties.  All together, more than 25 members attended the meeting representing regions of Europe, Africa, Middle East and North Africa, Latin America, North America, Oceania and Asia.

The ExCo had intensive discussion to finalise the revised text of the Statute and Internal rules, budget for 2012 and action plan for next 4 years. The meeting also invited Bishop Marcelo S├ínchez Sorondo, Chancellor of Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, who addressed members of the ExCo on the economic crisis which has been causing tremendous difficulties over people's lives in world today.

The new Statute has been approved during the ExCo and will be submitted to Holy See for its approval.  Once it is approved, it may change several key structures of the CI executive body and I may not continue as the Vice President any more, though I will remain as the President of Caritas Asia and also as a member of the renewed ExCo.  We will see when it will be given approval of Holy See.

This is my second time to join the ExCo of CI.  Before I became bishop, I was a member of the ExCo from 1999 for one term of 4 years representing East Asia.  While I was serving for my second term as member of ExCo, I was appointed as bishop in 2004 and Fr. Daisuke Narui, SVD, the present director of Caritas Japan, took over from me.  This time, I could feel much more at home to attend the meeting and, though it was not easy to follow the discussion and express my opinion in English, enjoyed being there.  The present ExCo is filled with quite positive atmosphere of friendly exchange of opinions and cooperation.  Well, as a "good and typical" Japanese, I was quiet and listening.  During the meeting, one may use one of 3 official languages of the confederation which are English, Spanish and French.  In fact,there are quite a number of members who are fluent in all these 3 languages.  Also the executive officers of the CI, such as a president or a secretary general, have to be fluent in these 3 languages.  Though the professional simultaneous translations are provided during the meeting, and which also guarantees to finish a daily session at 6 pm when translators go home, it is not easy for me to just follow the flow of discussion through English translation.

It was beautiful autumn days in Rome during the meeting and I enjoyed morning walk to the Pallazo along Tevere river.  Next meeting of ExCo will be in May, 2012.

Nov 10, 2011

17th Japan Korea exchange meeting of Catholic Bishops@Sendai

Catholic Bishops of Japan and Korea meets once a year in either country for exchange meeting.  As for this year, it was turn of Japan.  Originally we planned to organise the meeting in Kanazawa, Nagoya diocese to learn more about Takayama Ukon, a Japanese Samurai and Daimyo who died in exile in Philippines during 16th century's persecution period.  Japanese Catholic Church is working hard to have him beatified soon.

Then 11 March happened.  We had decided to organise this year's meeting in Sendai so that both Japanese and Korean Bishops could visit the disaster affected area to share our prayer for victims together.

The meeting started with report by Fr. Kanda, the secretary general of a team of the All Japan Support Project for Sendai Diocese, on the relief operation by entire Catholic Church in Japan.  Catholic Church of Korea was one of the very first Catholic Communities to send us messages of solidarity and also donation for victims.  Bishop Hiraga of Sendai expressed his gratitude to Korean Bishops.  Then there was also a report by Korean Bishops on the issue of the Four Major Rivers Project in Korea for which Korean Bishops have expressed their opposition.  After these reports, new Nuncio to Japan, Archbishop Joseph Chennoth joined with bishops for dinner.

For second day, there were lectures on accident in Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant by a lay specialist, and presentation on biological theology by Korean Theologian.  After lunch, bishops traveled to Ishinomaki by bus to offer prayer for victims and celebrateed Holy Eucharist in Ishinomaki Parish.  Nuncio led a prayer and Archbishop Ikenaga joined to offer flowers for victims on top of a hill overlooking entire town of Ishinomaki which had been hit badly by Tsunami. (Photo above)  During the Mass, Nuncio presented a Latin letter introducing him to Japanese Bishops written by Cardinal Secretary of State.

Prior to the travel to Ishinomaki, Nuncio made a courtesy call to the Mayor of Sendai.  I joined him to meet the Mayor.  I was happy to be there because the Mayor praised the operation of Caritas Japan and show her appreciation to Catholic Community in Japan and all over the world.

Today, after the meeting was concluded, Japanese Bishops made a message public on the issue of Nuclear Power Generation.  The message is against the Nuclear Power Generation and asking for immediate end for it to preserve life which is a gift from God.  Bishops said that it is a moral issue and we have to choose a way to be responsible to all the creature which have been entrusted to us by God.  Also we have to fulfill our moral obligation for future generation.  We can not make nuclear waste which we can not handle as our legacy for future generation.  It is immoral.

The message will be translated into English soon.  Mean time you may read this article in UCAN.