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Comments of the President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Japan
Three years after the Great East Japan Earthquake

Nearly three years have passed since the Great East Japan Earthquake occurred. Immediately after the earthquake, some people optimistically assumed that reconstruction would be undertaken in a timely way. However, the present situation of the afflicted areas is disastrous. As of the end of last year, over 270,000 people still remained displaced, and in some areas of Fukushima Prefecture the tsunami’s damage was still untouched.
Many of the afflicted people cannot foresee any prospects for their own lives, let alone the reconstruction of regional communities. They are forced to live dark days in hopeless anxiety. Not a few people have decided to move to other regions because they cannot help but give up their hope to rebuild their lives in communities where they had lived before the earthquake. Future prospects for the afflicted areas are marked by deep anxiety. Although it seems essential to raise hope in the afflicted persons’ hearts, unfortunately, measures to that end have not been fully prepared.
With support from Catholic Churches all over the world and many people within the country, the Catholic Church in Japan has been continuously providing reconstruction assistance to various afflicted areas. In various afflicted coastal areas we have established volunteer bases supervised by the Sendai Diocese Support Center. We are working there with volunteers from all over Japan. In addition, the three Ecclesiastical Provinces in Japan, namely Tokyo, Osaka and Nagasaki, have established respective bases in the afflicted areas, and have extended support for the reconstruction aid activities of the Sendai Diocese throughout the nation.
The Catholic Church has been making efforts to stay genuinely close to those who live in afflicted areas and to support the building up of communities in those regions.
During the Extraordinary Plenary Assembly of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Japan last February, the bishops of Japan reviewed the previous nationwide reconstruction support activities. Understanding the present situation in the afflicted areas and thinking of how afflicted persons are feeling, the bishops have resolved to continue the nationwide aid activities for another three years.
We, the bishops of Japan are determined to continue to advance hand in hand with people in the afflicted areas, and to support reconstruction in cooperation with Sendai Diocese in order to raise hope in the hearts of people in the Tohoku district.
At the same time, the bishops approved a renewed version of the prayer that has been offered in all churches of Japan since immediately after the Earthquake. We offer this new prayer with all the faithful in Japan, praying that a lively hope will grow in the hearts of those who are living in the afflicted areas.
In November 2011, eight months after the Earthquake, the bishops of Japan announced the message “Abolish Nuclear Plants Immediately” in response to the nuclear plant accident in Fukushima. In this message we appealed for the immediate abolition of nuclear plants from the standpoint of people of faith who respect life as the gift of God. At the same time we stressed the importance of “an obligation to bear genuine witness to the Gospel especially through the ways of life expected by God: ‘simplicity of life, the spirit of prayer, charity towards all, especially towards the lowly and the poor, obedience and humility, detachment and self-sacrifice,’” and we proposed a review the way society should be.
Unfortunately, as time goes by, the situation seems to be heading in a different direction from this appeal. As we commemorate the third anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake, I appeal once again to abolish nuclear plants immediately and to review our way of life.
Let us open our heart to God’s call and make efforts together so that we can respect all life and live with hope.

March 11, 2014
Takeo Okada, Archbishop of Tokyo
President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Japan

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