Dec 20, 2013

Christmas Message 2013 from Niigata Diocese, Japan

Workshop for Bishops in Okinawa

The Japanese Catholic Bishops' Committee for Social Concern has organised 3-day field workshop in Okinawa island from Tuesday, 17 December to Thursday, 19 December.  9 Japanese Bishops and one Korean Bishop attended the workshop. Bishop Peter Kang of Cheju, Korea, who has almost the same kind of military issue in his diocese which is the navy base construction in Cheju island, joined the event since last workshop of the same committee was held in his diocese in January to visit the site of construction where Catholic community had been joining the local community in protest against the navy base construction.
On the first day, we had a study session on the topic of the Japan-U.S. Status-of-Forces Agreement which allows US Forces to operate inside  Japan quite freely and make Japanese government responsible for their upkeep. Still today, quite a large area of Okinawa has been used as US bases and negotiation between Japan and US to relocate these facilities somewhere in Japan raises yet another problem of ecological destruction, danger for local community and division among local residents. In Japan, because of this Japan-U.S. Status-of-Forces Agreement, most of the cost of the US military presence in Japan are covered by Japanese government's budget which is called "OMOIYARI" budget, means "budget allocation for sympathy" which includes quite a sum of money to pay rent for military facilities which had been used since the end of the WWII.  For example, almost USD 4 million a year for ground rent fee of the below mentioned JWTC are covered by this Omoiyari budget which is Japanese tax money  So it is not a free service by the US to protect Japan as such.

Behind the wall is the part of US Marine Base, Camp Schwab. In front of us is a beautiful tropical sea where saltwater manatee (Dugong) lives. During the Vietnam war, US government seems to try to build a runway for Marine Helicopter on this sea but could not materialise it because of budgetary limitations. Now after the SACO ( Special Action Committee for Okinawa) agreement in 1996 between US and Japan, Futenma base which is in middle of residential area was to return to Japan. Japanese government proposed to build two runway for helicopters on this sea in return for Futenma. Because of beauty of this sea and also because of the cost of landfill of this sea, and more over, because of destructive effect on environment, local residents are protesting to this plan since then for 17 years. Now Japanese government is waiting for a replay from Okinawa Governor, Mr.Nakaima, to grant permission to go ahead with landfill of this sea.

At the Jungle Warfare Training Center (JWTC) of the US 3rd Marine Division in Northern part of Okinawa. A map at the top left of the board in a photo is entire Okinawa island. The circled area is the JWTC. After the SACO agreement in 1996, almost half of the center was to return to Japan. In return, Japanese government proposed to build 6 helipads which are indicated as red dot in the enlarged map in this enlarged map, we can see these 6 helipads circles the village of TAKAE. The local community of TAKAE has been protesting the construction of these 6 helipads since combat helicopters in practice will fly over their village to reach these helipads.

Catholic Church, especially through the local diocese and National Justice and Peace Commission, has been trying to be with local people to achieve Okinawa without military facilities. Catholic Church has been urging Japanese in general to end sacrificing this beautiful island with their rich history and unique culture for the sake of National security interests.  Of course we do understand that this could not be realised so easily and it is highly depending on the decisions of Japanese leaders which should be supported by peace seeking people of Japan.

Nov 16, 2013

Message of Caritas Asia to Caritas Philippines

Southern part of Philippines, especially the Leyte island was terribly damaged by one of the strongest Typhoon in the history. So many people lost their lives and everything which they had. Family members have been separated. Still so many people are waiting for help to come.

We know how terrible it is to be hit by such disaster as we in Japan also experienced such in 2011 and many people are still struggling to recover from the loss caused by the disaster. It is so difficult to find hope for the future in disaster hit area. We also know that our brothers and sisters in Philippines also prayed for us in 2011 and still doing so. Such kindness brings us hope for the future. So now it is our turn to pray for victims in Philippines and begin our support to bring them hope for the future.

Caritas Philippines has started their rescue and rehabilitation activities with other Caritas member organisation all over the world under the coordination by Caritas Internationalis. Caritas Japan has also joined the effort and started special collection in Japan since last Monday.

Korea and Japanese bishops gathered for annual exchange meeting in Kanazawa this week also said a Mass for Philippines on 13 November in Kanazawa Catholic Church. Photo above is a message by Caritas Asia addressed to Caritas Philippines to show our solidarity with people of Philippines. May God bring hope for the future to our brothers and sisters in Philippines. May the victims of the disaster who lost their precious lives rest in peace.

We have moved into a new house in Niigata

We have moved! From the first day of November, the chancery office of Niigata diocese and bishop's residence have moved into a new building. Though the entire construction works are still going on in the Cathedral compound, we had to move so that the present building would be demolished for other plans.

The New House, which comprises of our chancery office, meeting room, common dining room for  retired priests, the Cathedral priests and myself and a bishop's residence under one roof is a single story flat
 built with local wood.  Main structure of the new house is made of local ceder trees.

Present Bishop's house which is more than 80 years old wooden two story building was not strong enough any more to resist major earthquakes, though it withstood several of them in the past, and being quite inefficient in energy conservation. As the diocese was celebrating 100th anniversary of its establishment as the vicariate in 2012 and the Japanese government has announced their intention to raise consumption tax next April, I thought it is high time to begin restructuring of the Cathedral compound and rebuilding of the chancery office/ Bishop's house.  Also decision of the Missionary Sisters of Sacred Heart to close their Kindergarten behind the present Bishop's House by the end of March, 2011 and absence of any new plan for that plot also prompted me to organise a committee by both priests and laity to come out with new plan for the Cathedral compound. 


The demolition of the present house has started already and by today, we do not see the old house any more. We also have decided to continue to use two story building behind the present Bishop's House, though it is also more than 80 years old but could be renovated, for priests to stay or retire.

Entire construction works will complete by the end of the year. However the official opening and blessing of the house is scheduled on 10 May to avoid bad and cold weather of winter in Niigata.

Since the new building is in the same Cathedral compound, there is no change for the postal address or telephone number.

Nov 15, 2013

The 19th Korea Japan Catholic Bishops' exchange meeting @ Kanazawa

The 19th gathering of both Korea and Japan Catholic Bishops were held in Kanazawa in Nagoya Diocese from 11 to 14 November and attended by 19 Korean Bishops and 17 Japanese Bishops. 17 Bishops from Japan means entire Bishops Conference of Japan attended the meeting.

Bishops had 2 study sessions on the "PACEM IN TERRIS" of John XXIII which celebrates 50th anniversary of its publication this year. Each Bishops Conferences provided one lecturer respectively on the issue. It was quite interesting to learn about the background history of the encyclical and also realise contemporary meaning of the teachings of the Pope.

Also during the gathering, we visited historical sites related to Takayama Ukon whose cause for beatification Japanese Bishops are working on. Takayama Ukon was one of Catholic feudal lord born in 1552. Because of his faith he had to give up everything he had including his status and his territory. From 1588 till 1614, he was given a refuge by Maeda family in Kanazawa and stayed there till the Shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu ordered him to leave Japan to Manila.  He died in Manila on 3 February, 1615. Catholic Church in Japan through consultation with Holy See has been working for his cause for beatification as a martyr since he lost everything of his life because of his faith in Jesus Christ and died in exile.

On 13 evening, we had a Mass with parish community of Kanazawa joined by the Apostolic Nuncio. The last day, half a day, was dedicated to group sharing. It is not so easy to have such sharing because of language difference but we manage to do so thanks to number of interpreters.

The 20th memorial gathering will be held in Korea next November.

Nov 10, 2013

Bishop Katsuya ordained for Sapporo

The Episcopal ordination of Bishop Bernard Taiji Katsuya of Sapporo was held on 14 October at 2 pm in Fuji Women's University in Sapporo and attended by around 2,000 people. All the Japanese Bishops plus Apostolic Nuncio and a friend bishop from Philippines joined the ordination Mass with more than 50 priests from all over Japan. Congratulations for Bishop Katsuya and people of Sapporo diocese.
As I was one of two co-consecrators, there are no photos during the Mass. I was an apostolic administrator of this diocese for past 4 years. Thank God finally we got a new bishop. It was November 2009. I got a call from Nuncio telling me that Holy Father accepted the resignation of Bishop Jinushi of Sapporo and decided to appoint me an administrator. Bishop Jinushi was already 3 years over the retirement age of 75. Well, I did not receive any appointment letter from Holy Father but a one from the Propaganda Fide. Since then, I had to travel at least once a month to Sapporo which was an hour flight from Niigata. To be honest, it was not easy.
I am sure Bishop Katsuya is the best choice as a new and energetic pastor of Sapporo diocese. My homily during the ordination Mass is as follows.
 "For my power is greatest when you are weak," "Virtus in infirmitate perficitur"
The power of God can not work when we, human beings, forgot that our wisdom and knowledge has certain limit and try to find our own solutions. The gospel will not be proclaimed when we forgot to talk about God and tell the stories of our own. We have to admit our limitations. We have to admit in humility that human wisdom and knowledge has clear limitations. With this humility, as we stand humbly in front of the mighty power of God, then finally the power of God may be able to work freely and the will of God be accomplished. Gospel proclaimed. Knowing all these and hoping the will of God alone be accomplished, Bishop Katsuya chose this motto to devote his entire life as a successor of apostles.
Dear brothers and sisters of Sapporo diocese. Congratulations. Now you have your pastor. It has been almost 4 years since the resignation of Bishop Jinushi had been accepted in November, 2009. I am sure from today on, Bishop Jinushi is able to feel the real relief of retirement. Of course, the Church never left the people of God in Sapporo and have been appointed myself as an apostolic administrator. However, as I have to take care of my own Niigata diocese, though it is a small one, I could not always walk along with you. Probably among members of this diocese, there would be some who never saw my face. Thank you so much for your patience and prayer. From today on, Bishop Katsuya will be with all of you as your pastor.
Sapporo diocese faces full of challenges as other dioceses in Japan such as aging of majority of members, declining number of youths and very few response to the vocation, especially for the priesthood. However, I witnessed strong and active participation of laity, religious and priests in this diocese to contribute to face these challenges. Probably many of you think that I made several merciless appointments in this diocese such as appointing a priest to two or three parishes as a sole pastor. I do agree. Decisions to make such appointments were not mine alone but results of active participation of diocesan priests to consider future of the diocese and take active part in the evangelization in Hokkaido. Bishop Katsuya was always played leading role in such decision makings.
Past 4 years, we hold regular meetings of members of the former priests' senate, and organized two sessions of preparatory commission for future diocesan pastoral council. I am sure that you will make great steps forward once the pastoral council would be established because I am the witness of active participation of laity in this preparatory commission. Bishop Katsuya has been in the center of these strong movement to set future pastoral direction of the diocese. He knows challenges and the plausible way to find solutions. 
It was during the Mass of thanksgiving after one year of my presence in Sapporo as the administrator, someone prayed during the general intercession that I should be transferred from Niigata to Sapporo. It was my first time to pray God that the prayer should not be heard. Well, after all, it is better to have a bishop from this diocese since he knows the situation and challenges of the area. But as you know, Bishop Katsuya does not have enough diocesan priests to work with. Concerning number of priests working in parishes, making him as the bishop of this diocese means less number of active parish priests, say, minus one in number. Yes, Sapporo diocese has three seminarians but it may take at least 7 years for a seminarian to be ordained. Considering all these situation in this diocese, I would like to make urgent appeal to all of you gathered here today and through you to all the members of the diocese that please walk along with Bishop Katsuya. Try to face the challenges of evangelization with Bishop Katsuya. Together with Bishop, try to create strong parish communities. Evangelization is not duty only for priests and religious but the one for all of us.
Since his election in March this year, Pope Francis made several comments of his own view on the qualities and requirements for Bishops. In June this year, Holy Father spoke to Nuncios as follows: "For episcopal appointments, be careful that the candidates are pastors close to the people, fathers and brothers, that they are gentle, patient and merciful; animated by inner poverty, the freedom of the Lord and also by outward simplicity and austerity of life, that they do not have the psychology of "Princes."
Then during the seminar for new bishops organized by the congregation for Bishops this year, Holy Father made following three points to new bishops. "To welcome with magnanimity. To walk with the flock. Then presence in the diocese."
Especially for the third point, Holy Father said that bishops should "avoid the scandal of being airport Bishops” Then Holy Father called the new bishops that they should be "welcoming Pastors, journeying with your people, with affection, with mercy, with gentleness in your dealing with them and with paternal firmness, with humility and discretion, capable also of seeing your limitations and having a dosage of good humor."
My dear brothers and sisters of Sapporo Diocese, who would be your pastor welcoming you with magnanimity, walking with the flock and present in the diocese? Bishop Katsuya must be the one. Who in this diocese would be the "welcoming Pastor" who journeys with you, with affection, with mercy, with gentleness in dealing with you and with paternal firmness, with humility and discretion? Bishop Katsuya must be the one. You know it well much more than myself through your own experinece with him.
Finally, Bishop is also capable to see his limitations. Why? Because we know that very well from his motto;
 "For my power is greatest when you are weak," "Virtus in infirmitate perficitur"


Oct 6, 2013

Two laity assemblies in Kushiro and Sanjo in a row

My duty as an Apostolic Administrator of Sapporo Diocese in northern end of Japan is finally coming to the end on 14 October when Bishop-elect Katsuya will be ordained a bishop. I was appointed as the Administrator of the diocese in November 2009 so that I spent almost 4 years in both Sapporo and, my own, Niigata.  My final duty for Sapporo was to attend the laity assembly in Kushiro on 29 September.

Kushiro district is under pastoral care of Franciscan Fathers (OFM) with 9 parish communities.  More than 100 people gathered together in Kushiro Church on 29 Sunday and I gave a talk on "the Year of Faith and Great earthquake in Tohoku area."

As volunteers from all over Japan, half of them are non-Christians, continue to join the activities organised by Caritas Japan and Sendai diocese, we Catholics are deepening our own faith in the field and also through our activities, through words and deeds, I am sure, we are proclaiming Gospel message.  Of course, we do not force anyone to accept the faith nor even join our prayer in the volunteer bases. However, many of these non-Christian volunteers return to the base again and again because they feel at home with the prayerful atmosphere of our activities. Isn't it evangelization through witness?

Then today on 6 October, I joined the 25th Catholic Shibata district laity assembly in Sanjo Parish in Niigata Diocese. Around 90 people from 8 communities in the district joined the event. The district used to be a SVD pastoral district till early 70's. At present 4
diocesan priests of Niigata take care of 8 communities including Murakami, Shibata, Niitsu, Kamo, Tochio, Sanjo, Mitsuke and Muramatsu.

Most of these communities suffer from aging membership and lack of young membership. One of their parish priests, Fr. Kamata is already over 85 and is still in charge of 2 communities and 2 KGs.

Those who gathered today shared their faith experiences in small group discussion after the Mass and lunch. Of course, the theme of the event was the Year of Faith.

Sep 14, 2013

Akita will join the “With Mary during the night” of the Year of Faith

Niigata diocese received an invitation through the Nuncio in Tokyo from the diocese of Rome to join the event of “With Mary during the night” on 12 October, 2013, which is a part of the entire program of the Year of Faith.

The invitation has been extended to the Marian shrines all over the world to join the Rosary recitation in the evening on 12 October and our Marian shrine in the diocese, AKITA, has been included.  More than 30 years ago, a statue of Mary shed tears for 101 times in the convent of Seitaihoshikai (Handmaids of Blessed Sacraments, the diocesan religious group) and then-Bishop of Niigata, Most Rev. Shojiro Ito issued a pastoral letter to permit private adoration and pilgrimage.  Up till today, Niigata diocese has been maintaining the same position as set by late Bishop Ito including his understanding of messages of Holy Mother. So you are free to make pilgrimage to the convent which I designated as a pilgrimage chapel for the Year of the Faith.

Because of the international time difference of 7 hours between Rome and Akita, the prayer service of Akita will begin at 11 pm on 12 October. Then at 2 am on 13 October, which is 7 pm on 12 October in Rome, international Rosary recitation will begin via satellite broadcasts.  The service in Akita will conclude with Mass at 5 am.  I will preside over the Mass and will be there in Akita through out the event.

You may refer to the link of the convent to find our more information.

Aug 14, 2013

Mass with Catholic community in Miyako @ Iwate pref.

On Sunday, 11 August, I made a visit to Miyako city in Iwate prefecture which had been heavily damaged by 2011 March 11 Tsunami. Fortunately, the parish buildings including the Catholic KG were not hit by Tsunami though number of members of the parish community lost quite a lot of their properties. 

I celebrated Sunday Mass with the congregation of Miyako Catholic Church where I had been baptised in 1958 and attended the KG. Volunteers from Sapporo diocese also joined the Mass.  The presence of these young volunteers from Hokkaido has been giving lively spirit to members of the parish.  Majority of the members are now quite aged.

Sapporo diocese has been operating a volunteer base in Miyako city (photo above) from very first month after the disaster and has been sending number of volunteers.  Cooperating with the local government's social welfare council, volunteers of the Catholic Church who has been operating under the title of Caritas Japan have contributed a lot to relief activities.  At present, volunteers are making regular visit to temporary housings for victims to listen to the stories of people over a cup of tea. 

After the Mass, one of my old friends took me to the town of Taro where tsunami had just destroyed everything including 10m high seawall. The local government is planning to relocate the entire township to higher land. But the process of relocation is moving very slow and people are still in anxiety with uncertain future.  Some residents already decided to leave the town and relocate themselves in other town.  Tsunami is a natural disaster but this delay of relocation plan is yet another man made disaster to destroy local communities in the area. This area in the photo used to be the center of the town with houses and shops. Behind my camera is the sea.

Aug 7, 2013

Cardinal Turkson in Hiroshima

Cardinal Peter Turkson, President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, is in Japan to join the "Ten Days for Peace" organised by Japanese Bishops' Conference.  This ten days of several activities and prayers for peace was organised by Japanese Bishops in response to the call for world peace made by Blessed John Paul II in 1981 during his visit to Hiroshima. It begins on 6 August, the memorial day of Hiroshima bombing and will end on 15 August, the day of Japanese surrender in 1945.  Also 9 August is memorial day of Nagasaki bombing.  For all these three days, government also organises its own memorial services.

Cardinal Turkson arrived in Hiroshima in the afternoon on 5 August.  First of all, he met with members of the Episcopal Commission for Social Issues to discuss about several social justice issues in Japan.  Then he proceeded to Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park with Archbishop Chennoth, apostolic nuncio to Japan, Bishop Maeda, bishop of Hiroshima and other Japanese bishops to join the Catholic and Anglican Prayer meeting for Peace.  Though it was raining heavy at that time, quite a number of members from both Anglican and Catholic gathered together to pray.  Of course, a shelter was provided to all.  After the prayer meeting, participants marched through the town of Hiroshima till the Catholic Cathedral and Cardinal Turkson also joined the march of almost 2 Km.

From 7pm on 5 August, memorial Mass was celebrated in the Catholic Cathedral of Hiroshima and Cardinal Turkson gave a homily.  The text of this homily in English is found in this link.

Cardinal and Nuncio also joined the government organised ceremony on 6 August morning while we gathered again in the Cathedral to attend Mass said by Bishop Maeda.

Cardinal will travel to Nagasaki to attend several inter-faith meetings and also government organised ceremony on 9 August.   

Jul 24, 2013

Confirmation in Yamagata

On Sunday, 21 July, in Yamagata Parish, 32 people received the sacrament of Confirmation.

It was during my pastoral visit of the parish. I believe that "32" are the highest number to be confirmed by me within one parish in Niigata diocese since I became its bishop in 2004, though I had had experience of more than 200 confirmation during one Mass as a parish priest while I was in Osonson, Ghana.  But in Japan, within one parish and not for a kind of district combined event, 32 are quite big number for a diocese with only 7,000 Catholics out of population of 4 million.  I sincerely congratulate the parish priest, Fr. Honma,, for his pastoral zeal and effort to give good formation to members of the parish while being a priest in charge of 3 parishes at this moment.

After the visitation of the parish, I was invited for a cup of tea at the convent of the Charity Sisters of Ottawa. The house is their formation house in Japan. One of them, a novice used to work for Caritas Japan.

Jul 18, 2013

53 Martyrs' Feastday Celebration in Yonezawa

On Sunday, 14 July, the commemorating celebration of 53 Blessed Martyrs of Yonezawa was held in Hokusanbara, the exact place of martyrdom of Blessed Luis Amakasu and 52 companions executed in January, 1629. The Holy Eucharist was presided by myself together with all the three priests working in Yamagata district and one from Niigata Cathedral. More than 150 people joined the celebration including several pilgrims from Niigata area.  Hokusanbara is in Yonezawa city which consists of Yamagata district together with Yamagata, Shinjo, Tsuruoka, Sakata and Nagai parishes.

On 28 April, 1928, Fr.Schwientek, SVD who was in charge of mission in Yonezawa at that time found the exact site of martyrdom of 1629. It was beside a stone statute of Buddha in the peripheral of Yonezawa city, in quite a distance from the main castle of the city. In fact Fr.Schwientek volunteered to come to Yonezawa after he had read a book about history of Christian persecution in Japan and got to know about the martyrdom in Yonezawa. Thanks to Fr.Schwientek who immediately bought the site at that time.

All these 53 Blessed Martyrs are lay faithfuls. Leader of them was Blessed Luis Amakasu Uemon who was a high ranking Samurai in Uesugi household. He was baptized in Tokyo around year 1610 while his master was staying in Tokyo, which was named EDO city at that time. Upon returning to Yonezawa, he invited 2 of his sons and started his catechism class which later became quite popular among followers of him. Eventually those 2 sons were baptized. Then blessed Amakasu commissioned 2 sons to bring the good news to their family while they knew very well that the central government at that time had banned Christianity. Though the prohibition by the government and fear that they might also be executed as the 26 martyrs in Nagasaki, people continue to join the community which even reached over 3000. (Today we have less than 300 Catholics in Yonezawa) There was no priest staying with them. Probably, only once or twice a year, foreign missionary had managed to visit people in secrecy to celebrate mass. But because of good example Blessed Amakasu and others showed to people, so many joined the community. Then finally because of strong pressure from the central government, Uesugi decided to arrest leaders of Christians. On 12 January 1629, 53 were arrested and immediately executed in Hokusanbara in Yonezawa. It is said that at the moment of the execution, an officer told the crowd to kneel down since these people were not criminals but holy people. They were respected by many.

The life style of these martyrs are teaching us how we should live and how we should spread the value of gospel in modern days Japan.

These 53 Blessed Martyrs are included among 188 Blessed Martyrs of Japan led by Blessed Peter Kibe. Their feast day in 1st July.  Niigata diocese organises diocesan wide celebration occasionally but organises the Yamagata district celebration every year in Hokusanbara. (By the way, as you may see from the photo above, three Mass servers were in fact Altar lady's.  They are from Shinjo parish and are originally from Philippines and our important members of Catholic community in Niigata diocese. )

Jul 14, 2013

The Laity Congress of Miyagi Prefecture

The 40th Laity Congress of Miyagi Prefecture in Sendai Diocese was held in Sendai on 7 July with more than 400 participants. Sendai diocese which had been hit by 11 March 2011 earthquake and massive tsunami is consisted by 4 prefectures, Aomori, Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima.  Cathedral is in Sendai city in Miyagi prefecture.  The diocese organises the Laity Congress annually for each of these 4 prefectures.  As for this year, the theme of the congress was " A concrete step forward as A faithful" in connection with the Year of Faith.  I was asked to give a talk during the Miyagi Congress on Caritas Japan's activities after the March 11.  The congress was held in Sendai Shirayuri Girls High School.

At the beginning of the congress, two people shared their experience of volunteer activities after the disaster. A representative from Yagiyama parish shared their activities in Watari area and their experience of visiting shelters of evacuees.  Also a leader of the one of the volunteer center, Yonekawa, also shared his own account of experience with a lot of volunteers coming from all over Japan. Bishop Hiraga of Sendai was the main celebrant of thanksgiving Mass after lunch

Jun 30, 2013

The 3rd meeting of diocesan teams supporting Sendai diocese

The third meeting of diocesan teams to support Sendai diocese has been held in Fukishima area from 19 June, Wednesday till 21 June, Friday. More than 60 participants, including three bishops, one bishop elect, priests, religious and laity from all over Japan's 16 dioceses had bee
n divided into three groups and dispatched to three different courses for site visits. I joined a group to visit Iwaki and the area near to Fukushima No.1 nuclear power plant which had been damaged by Tsunami in 2011.

On Wednesday morning, we made a visit to Iwaki parish and met with a volunteer team of the parish who shared their experiences with evacuees from town close to the nuclear power plant. Also we made a visit to the Mominoki volunteer station run by Saitama diocese. In the afternoon, we were taken by bus to the area quite closed to the nuclear power plant. It is possible to enter the area but residents are not allowed to live there since entry during night time is prohibited. We could see piles of debris of decontamination of the area in black plastic back. It may be quite impossible to find any place to keep these backs for long time without fear of the residents.

Even after two years of the disaster, earthquake and tsunami, because of radiation, people are not able to clear debris of the disaster.  We were in front of Tomioka rail way station, which has not been in function because of tsunami, and saw several damaged buildings left behind as they were on 11 March, 2011.

On Thursday, the 3rd meeting of diocesan teams supporting Sendai diocese was held in Koriyama parish chapel in Fukushima.  During the meeting, Mr.Sugawara of Ofunato parish in Iwate shared his experience of establishing a "Sister Relationship" with Sakai parish in Osaka. Mr. Sato of Sakai parish also shared his view from the other side of this relationship.

They did not know each other until the day of earthquake and tsunami hit Tohoku area on March 11, 2011. Ofunato and Sakai is 1,000 Km apart. Sakai parishioners led by Fr.Murata of Osaka diocese offered help to Ofunato people and also proposed to establish special relationship between two parishes. Since then parishioners from Sakai visited Ofunato several times and, for this spring, number of parishioners from Ofunato visited Sakai for first time to pray and play together.

This is the act of charity, Caritas, of Catholic Church. We do offer professional relief service from Caritas agencies to disaster victims. And it may be a short term services for the disaster hit area. But our commitment does not stop there. We, as parts of one body of Jesus, also offer long lasting partnership to walk along with people in the disaster hit area. Through these activities, not only professional relief workers, everyone in Catholic Church could join Caritas activities of Church.

May 30, 2013

Archbishop Dominic Andoh of Accra has passed away

Archbishop Dominic Andoh, emeritus archbishop of Accra in Ghana, has passed away on 17 May at age of 84. He was a bishop of Accra, the capital city of Ghana since 1971 till 1992 when the diocese was raised as Archdiocese and became an archbishop till his retirement in 2005. 

And he was my "boss" from 1986 to 1992. I was sent to Ghana in 1986 and appointed to a mission in upper Krobo land.  Then in June 1987, I was appointed as a priest in charge of Osonson by Archbishop Andoh.  In 1992, the Accra diocese was divided to two and Koforidua diocese was created. My parish, Our Lady of Lourdes in Osonson was included in the Koforidua diocese and Bishop Palmer Buckle, present Archbishop of Accra became my superior in Koforidua diocese at that time.

I have a lot of good memories with Archbishop Andoh. He used to visited parishes every three years and stayed with us for a week. So I took him around to visit my 23 outsations for confirmation. When I met him in 2006 and 2010 in his retirement house in Accra, he also mentioned several wild experiences with me in bush with a lot of laugh and smile.   He especially enjoyed an old mission house in Osonson and also a wild car ride through bush in upper Krobo area.

May he rest in perfect peace.

Funeral will be held on 6 June in Accra. R.I.P.

May 25, 2013

Audience with Holy Father in Rome

I was in Rome from 13 to 17 to attend the Representative Council (Repco) of Caritas Internationalis which is a kind of board meeting of Caritas Confederation.  Asia is represented by Caritas Sri Lanka and Caritas Indonesia together with myself as their president.  Regional Coordinator, Mr. Zar Gomez also joined the meeting.  Prior to the Repco, all the seven regional presidents of Caritas together with the president of the Caritas Internationalis, Cardinal Maradiaga and Mr. Roy, the secretary general, were invited by Pontifical Council Cor Unum to share ideas on the revised statues and internal rules of Caritas Internationalis in which the Pontifical Council was assigned as office in charge of Holy See for Caritas, both for International and regional one. 

On Thursday morning, participants of the Repco were invited to visit Casa Santa Marta to have private audience with Holy Father.  I had attended such Papal audience several times but this one with Pope Francisco was different.  Pope shared his own ideas on charitable activities of the Church for 10 minutes and gave us chance to talk.  So all the regional presidents were invited to introduce respective regions for 5 minutes.  Then Mr. Roy presented a basket with bread an fish to symbolise the beginning of the international anti poverty campaign.  Then Holy Father gave yet another talk.  Then, of course, personal greetings and photo taking time.  Holy Father was really simple and kind.  He emphasised that we should not stop at the level of emergency relief effort but have to continue to walk along with people as the Good Samaritan did with a wounded man. (Holy Father spoke in Spanish this time. I did so in English as several others did and it seems Holy Father is not comfortable with English.)

May 6, 2013

Retreat completed@Charity Sisters of Ottawa in Sendai

I have been to Sendai for a week to preach a retreat for the Charity Sisters of Ottawa in Japan. I left Niigata immediately after the Niigata diocesan pastoral council on 29 April and just returned from Sendai this afternoon.  The retreat was the annual one for sisters and 15 of them, from Yamagata, Yokohama and Sendai communities, joined a full 7-day retreat.  This morning during 7am Mass, sisters renewed their religious Vows and were sent out to their respective apostolates.

I am not given a talent to be a spiritual director so that I can not give comprehensive spiritual direction through the retreat as such.  What I did was to give talks for 12 times, that is 2 talks a day, said daily Mass and preached, and met with each individual sisters to listen to their stories.  Mu talks are all based on my own experiences as a missionary priest in Ghana, Caritas volunteer in Rwanda refugees camp and Caritas director in various countries.  Because of these experiences, especially with Caritas Japan, I have given rich experiences of encounter with so many people in many countries.

You may find a familiar face among Sisters.  Ms. Sawako Inae who used be a program officer of Caritas Japan is now a novice in this congregation.  After the March 11 disaster in Japan, Sawako was sent to work in Sendai Diocese Support Center to coordinate relief efforts of Caritas and other players.  She stayed with Charity Sisters while she was in Sendai and was fascinated with the lives of religious community.  That is why she is now with them.  Kindly remember her, Sawako Inae, in your prayer so that she can follow the call of Jesus faithfully.