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Japan Catholic News

November 2007


JAPAN-KOREA BISHOPS' MEETING The annual meeting of representatives of the Japanese and Korean hierarchies was held at the Park Hotel in Sapporo, Hokkaido, Nov. 13-15. This was the 13th such meeting and 13 bishops from each country attended.

During the three-day meeting the bishops listened to a lecture on "The Church and Persecution" by Professor Lee Won Sun of Seoul University in which he talked about the persecution of Christians in both countries. This was followed by a lecture from Bishop Osamu Mizobe of Takamatsu, chairman of the Episcopal Committee on the Beatification of the Japanese Martyrs, who spoke about the history of persecution in Japan and the process leading up to next year's beatification of Peter Kibe and 187 other Japanese martyrs. Following these two lectures the bishops engaged in a sharing of views on the theme of "modern society and persecution."

On the afternoon of the first day, over 40 people attended an opening session held in the hotel immediately after the bishops and officials of both bishops' conferences arrived.

The theme of the second day was "The Martyrs of Korean and Japan" when Professor Lee and Bishop Mizobe delivered their lectures. Professor Lee spoke about the early years of Christianity in Korea under the title "Persecution and the Church: the Korean Catholic Church During the Period of Persecution," and stated that it was to supplement the Zhu Xi Confucianism of the time that Korean intellectuals introduced Christianity into Korea. He explained that a special characteristic of the Korean Church is that Christianity seeped into the lives of ordinary people when the new teaching led to persecution, and communities of the faithful began to defend their faith. This history is still supporting the Korean Church, according to Professor Lee, as he went on to describe the background to the persecution, and the close relationship between martyrdom and politics, thought and culture.

In his lecture entitled "The Movement to Beatify 188 Japanese Martyrs," Bp. Mizobe referred to Professor Lee's lecture, saying that the there were close similarities between the persecutions in Japan and those in Korea. As he described the course of events leading to the decision to beatify the martyrs, Bishop Mizobe talked about the difficulties involved in fixing the list of martyrs for the beatification request, and how some suggestions from Korean bishops helped smooth the process. At the beginning of the 17th century, when the number of Christians in Japan was highest, here too it was small communities that supported the Church, and the purpose of the movement for beatification is to enlighten Catholics about their lives and send a strong message to people living today.

When Bp. Mizobe said that the reason for persecutions in Japan was that "the Emperor, chosen by the will of Heaven, wished to unite all religions, and monotheistic Christianity could not accept the polytheistic mentality of the state," there were voices from the Korean side asking "is the emperor system absolutely necessary for the development of Japanese culture?" and "what kind of role did Christian statesmen perform?"

On the afternoon of the second day the participants broke up into groups for a further exchange of opinions.

That evening during his homily at Mass in Kitaichijo Cathedral in Sapporo, Archbishop Takeo Okada of Tokyo recalled that the meetings of Japanese and Korean bishops began in 1996 with suggestions from Cardinal Fumio Hamao, who was bishop of Yokohama at the time, and Bishop Lee Mun Hee of Taegu. Although preparations were not complete on the Japanese side, Bp. Lee and Bp. Hamao welcomed three bishops from Korea, "and now we are having these large meetings."

"Cardinal Hamao worked hard for the pastoral care in Asia of people in a weak position in society. I wish to continue his concern for these people," said Archbishop Okada.

On the final day there were reports from the group meetings of the previous day, during which auxiliary Bishop Goro Matsuura of Osaka said that, "while human relationships are weak and modern society has many problems, we must not stop reflecting on the meaning of martyrdom, and living that meaning!"

Bishop Kang Uo Il of Cheju, vice president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Korea, said that he understood the causes of the persecutions in Japan, and he was reflecting on "what can be done when Christians are not welcomed in society." He also commented on the differences between Christianity in Japan and Korea.

Thanking the Korean bishops for praying with him for the late Cardinal Hamao, Archbishop Okada said, "I will inform Bishop Masahiro Umemura of Yokohama, who was unable to attend this meeting because of the Cardinal's funeral. I am sure he will be very happy to hear this."

Archbishop Okada concluded his remarks saying that he wished all the participants to pray that these meetings would continue to enrich both Churches and contribute to East Asian friendship. He also invited the Korean hierarchy to next year's beatification ceremony.

The meeting concluded with a concelebrated Mass led by Bishop Toshio Jinushi of Sapporo. Many priests from the Sapporo diocese attended the Mass to say farewell to their Korean visitors.

The Japanese side proposed that the bishops hold their next meeting before the Nov. 24, 2008 beatification ceremony in Nagasaki, and it was decided to hold the meeting Nov. 11-13 next year. The Korean hierarchy will sponsor the meeting, and the venue will be decided later.


Apostolic Nuncio in Japan Archbishop Alberto Bottari de Castello and Divine Word Missionaries provincial Fr. Hideaki Ichise were among about 280 people who took part in an Oct. 3 Mass to celebrate the 80th anniversary of the Niigata Church.

In his homily, Bishop Isao Kikuchi of Niigata reviewed the history of the parish. A hundred years ago three missionaries of the Divine Word Fathers entered Akita and 80 years ago one of them dedicated the church building, he said.

"To succeed in accomplishing this undertaking 80 years ago required the presence of lay people generously eager to spread the Gospel and in cooperating. As for we who inherit this sanctuary -- are we a community that has enthusiasm worthy of the building? It is indispensable to be a community full of life," said the bishop.

The period of anniversary events began on the anniversary of the date the old wooden sanctuary was dedicated (the Nativity of Mary, Sept. 8) and continued to the date the new sanctuary was consecrated (Feast of Christ the King, Nov. 15) in 1927. Liturgy training meetings and a photo exhibition were among the events marking the occasion.

Another event was a concert on Nov. 16 and 17 to raise money for the conservation of an organ that dates from the early days of the parish. According to Keiko Misaki, a member of the anniversary coordinating committee, the parish's German-made organ was built in 1929, two years after the sanctuary.

"It is a small-sized one with one keyboard, a pedal board and five stops operated by air pressure," she explained.

She added that the only other organ in active service imported at the same time is in Tokyo's Ueno Concert Hall.

"For 80 years, it has always been part of the Mass and that is its value for us as a church, isn't it? Even our regular parishioners did not know that this was something that has been around since the year Showa 4," she said.

Through the plan to restore the instrument, parishioners came to know the organ's "personal history."

Before the concert, local newspapers publicized the event.

"We want everyone to be able to hear it and to come into the church. However, there are only about 200 seats, so we are now thinking about how to cope," said Misaki.


This article is the fifth in a series looking at the birth of a parish in the Saitama diocese. Previous articles have presented the development of a parish council and the search for a site for the parish church.

In the southwest Tochigi prefecture city of Joso, formed in 2006 when the towns of Mizukaido and Ishige merged, a new parish is being built by Brazilian immigrants.

The Saitama diocese has secured land for a church and parishioners have begun to raise funds to build on the site. Presently, Mass is celebrate on the first Sunday of each month in the former Ishige and on the third Sunday, there is a Mass the former Mizukaido. Each of the two Mass groups raises a fixed amount each month toward the construction.

A priest of Brazil's Solocaba diocese, Fr. De Freitas Dirceu Sudario, came to the Saitama diocese in April and is in charge of pastoral work for Brazilians. Presently he is studying Japanese while living in the Matsugamine Church in Utsunomiya and involving himself in the Joso community. In addition, Scalabrini Fr. Olmes Milani, Carmelite Sisters of Charity Sr. Mitsue Shirahama and Deacon Masataka Nagasawa are engaged in pastoral work for this group.

Last June in Moka, Tochigi prefecture, at the opening ceremony of the centenary celebration of Japanese-Brazilian immigration sponsored by the Saitama diocese, the Joso community together with other Brazilian communities organized a festival. It was an opportunity to raise funds for the building project.

"At such a fiesta (festival) we can collect the most money," Sr. Shirahama explained.

She added, "Now that the plans have been drawn up, the groups are pooling their opinions."

At first, they planned a simple building, just a sanctuary, but the opinion came out, "Since we are going to build anyway, let's do it right." Now the proposal is for a two-story building. The first floor will house the sanctuary and a gathering room and the second floor will provide living space for pastors.

The plan is to finance the building with money the parishioners have gathered as well as other donations and a loan from the diocese. The parishioners hope that the diocese will donate the funds for the living quarters.

Sr. Shirahama said that the building fund will be frugally used.

"The parishioners themselves will build the fence. The chairs inside will be used ones that they can get. Many items will be recycled things, so as much as possible they will be frugal, combining their efforts," she said.

According to Deacon Nagasawa, the parishioners had hoped to start construction this year, but because of recent scandals in Japan involving falsified certificates of earthquake safety, preconstruction inspections are now being delayed. Hence, construction will begin sometime next year, with completion around Christmas.

Sr. Shirahama said that since the site is far from the nearest train station, "When the Church is built and Masses begin, we must convey people to and from the station. Everyone will arrive by car, so we must think about a parking lot."

On Oct. 14, the parish's two subgroups held a fiesta on the land of the new church to celebrate the first anniversary of blessing of the site last October. Japanese families living in the area were invited.

"During this year, little by little the two groups are growing closer together. Until last year, at each place 30 or 40 people gathered. Now with the two places coming together, it is lively with more than a hundred people," said Sr. Shirahama.

Parish council member Helena Nonoyama told of the group's growth.

"This year, looking ahead to one goal, communication has become really possible," she said.

She continued, "Last year, there was only one Mass a month, but now in addition to Mass on the first and third Sundays, there is a meeting for prayer on the fourth Sunday and we have been able to discuss more often. Brazilians like gathering to sing and to pray and to communicate."

The vice president of the parish council, Francisco Congiu, said: "The trouble is, because of the language problem, we cannot get in contact with Japanese, work is until late at night and on Saturdays, and so, overwhelmed by work, we do not have much time."

He added that there are no quarrels about the managing of the money collected for construction.

"We divide up the work and we trust each other, so it is alright," he said.

The parish council's only Japanese member, Toru Hojo, said, "Once the church is built it will be variously used. Filipinos and others from outside South America will come and it will become an international church. Surrounding Japanese will come too."

Before the Mass, children from the Brazilian School in Shimotsuma city, Escucola Pingo de Gente performed a play setting forth the history of the immigrants' 100 years and featuring the hard work of the emigrant generation that crossed over to Brazil and the hard work of the immigrants who have now come back to Japan.


HOSPITAL Though he is one of the number of decreasing and aging priests in Japan, for seven years Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions (Milan Foreign Mission Society) Fr. Riccardo Magrin, 83, has increased his range of activity as chaplain at St. Mary's Hospital in Kurume, Fukuoka prefecture.

Fr. Magrin served as pastor for some 50 years at many churches in Saga prefecture, and in 2001 came to St. Mary's Hospital.

"Let's call it destiny," said Akishi Takahashi of the Kurume Church who works at the hospital as assistant director of medical safety.

Takahashi worked with the staff to maintain a pastoral care office for visiting priests and nuns. After starting an exchange with Korea, a priest came on a three-year mission from Taejon diocese, and then Fr. Magrin took over on a permanent basis.

Commenting on Fr. Magrin's coming to the hospital, he said, "When I think about the state that Japan is in, it's sad that we have mission stations (due to an absence of priests), but it just turned out we had good timing."

Dr. Ichiro Ide, a Catholic layman, founded the hospital based upon his faith with the hope that priests and Sisters would become a permanent part of the hospital. Nearly 50 of the 2,000 people currently on staff are Catholics.

Fr. Magrin said, "I am their companion, bringing the Catholics together as a group."

This group holds general meetings and also has group meditation. They have become the heart of the practical expression of the hospital's Christian spirit. Fr. Magrin named them Compagnia Santa Maria (the Company of St. Mary)

"We can't all meet at the same time," said Takahashi, "because of night shifts and the amount of work."

The hospital specializes in infant and newborn care and emergency medicine. A palliative (hospice) care ward has also been maintained for 10 years.

"We have 24-hour, 365-days-a-year emergency care for children. I think it's just great," Fr. Magrin said.

St. Mary's Hospital is also the home to the former cathedral of Fukuoka Daimyo-machi, relocated 20 years ago. Mass is celebrated there every day, and is it open outside of Mass hours for people to freely visit and pray.

"Father Magrin talks with people before and after Mass, as well as in the hospital wards. He listens to what anyone has to say, no problem. He's been a blessing for this hospital like that. Fr. Magrin is the best way we have to spread the Gospel," Takahashi said.

He continued, "In Athens St. Paul saw an altar dedicated to the 'unknown God.' When Japanese people are dying, that is their last chance to know the 'unknown God.' Fr. Magrin brings them that opportunity wholeheartedly. That's why I really think he is saving hearts."

Fr. Magrin has been conducting a Hearts' Peace Assembly each fall for five years now. While many of the attendees are seniors, the event includes the hospital's many children and their parents.

"Anyone who wants peace in their lives can come. Mothers looking for healing for their children seem to seek it with all their strength," said the priest.

This year's assembly was held Oct. 6 in front of the hospital's Lourdes Plaza under a gentle fall sun with more than 1,000 people offering up their prayers as Fr. Magrin and Kurume Church's Fr. Tsutomu Urakawa of Fukuoka diocese laid their hands on each of them and blessed them.

"Maintaining that spirit throughout this institution into the future is a big project," Takahashi said. "It's important to have leadership to maintain this little place, but it won't happen based on one person's charisma alone. And so it is vital to maintain our ideals."


SAM PHRAN, Thailand (UCAN) -- The Catholic Church in Japan is stagnating and growing old, according to Archbishop Jun Ikenaga of Osaka.

The number of foreign Catholics is growing with the influx of foreign workers, but the number of Japanese Catholics has remained largely unchanged over the last few decades.

Archbishop Ikenaga spoke with UCA News on the sidelines of the Asian Vocations Today conference, held Oct. 22-27 at Bangkok archdiocese's pastoral training center in Sam Phran, 30 kilometers west of the Thai capital. About 125 bishops and priests in charge of vocations, including seminary rectors, from more than 12 Asian countries and territories formed the core group of participants.

At the conference, Archbishop Ikenaga called on fellow Asian Churches to send missioners to Japan and other places in Asia where the local Church produces few vocations. Foreign missioners working in his archdiocese, based 400 kilometers southwest of Tokyo, include members of the Columban, Paris Foreign Missions, Salesian and St. Francis Xavier Foreign Mission societies.

In this interview with UCA News, the prelate says he and his priests have become "tired" in their efforts to encourage local men and women to become priests and nuns. Priests are aging and there are hardly any men lining up to fill their shoes.

In the archbishop's analysis, the big challenge is changing the mindset that Christianity is a "foreign religion" in this insular country. His call for Asian missioners reflects his desire for the Church to appeal to the Japanese mind in its evangelization efforts, rather than just import Western cultural practices.

Archbishop Ikenaga was born in Kobe, near Osaka, in 1937 and ordained a Jesuit priest in 1968. He was appointed coadjutor archbishop of Osaka, Japan's commercial hub, in November 1995 and succeeded Archbishop Hisao Yasuda in May 1997.

The prelate is a member of the executive board of the Office of Consecrated Life that the Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences (FABC) established in 2004.

According to November 2007 data, Osaka archdiocese has 51 diocesan priests, 127 priests of Religious orders and missionary congregations, and three bishops, including one retired.

The average age of the priests is 63, "and they are getting older and older," according to the prelate.

The interview follows.

UCA NEWS: Your appeal for Asian missioners for Japan is unusual. Why did you make it?
ARCHBISHOP JUN IKENAGA: The [official] Catholic population in Japan accounts for very, very few. In the case of our archdiocese, there are only 45,000 Catholics. Osaka's Catholic population is one-tenth of the whole Catholic population of Japan. Only 0.35 percent of Japan's 127 million people are Catholics, or, in absolute numbers, 444,500.

Not all of the Catholics are Japanese?
Correct. About 30 years ago foreign laborers flocked to Japan and many Catholics were among them. But many of them had no visa. They are still working and staying secretly, unregistered in Japan. Due to their presence our Church grew to double its size. So every Sunday Mass sees double the number of people than according to the official statistics. The number of 444,500 Catholics in Japan also includes [a small percentage of] foreign Catholics who have gone to church for at least three months and are enrolled in a parish.

Why has the total number of Catholics in Japan not increased over the last few decades?
Propagation of the faith is so difficult. Maybe the cultural elements matter as well as the shortage of the number of children in each family. This number is very small, 1.3 children is the average per family. That is one reason why the Church cannot get many vocations.

In terms of cultural issues, how is the Christian faith perceived in Japan?
There was a Synod for Asia in Rome in April-May 1998, and around 180 Asian bishops gathered there. And all of them thought that propagation is very difficult in Asian countries generally, except the Philippines. But in other countries in Asia, it is also difficult to baptize people.

In the case of India, it is almost 2,000 years since Saint Thomas went there, and there are some signs to see. But in India until today, the Catholic population is also small. Every country is difficult. Regarding Oriental or Asian mentality, according to psychologists Asian people have a maternal way of thinking, while European and American people have a paternal mindset. So, most of the missionaries stressed the very, very big image of God and separated it almost infinitely from human beings, pointing out that we humans are very, very small. But God is so big. So if we sin against the will of God, he will strongly condemn us.

The missionaries, who did tremendous work in general, brought this kind of thinking to Japan. But today, some Japanese say: "We cannot follow this kind of image of God. Rather, for Oriental people, God is very, very near to us. And God lives even inside of us. And the character of God is also full of love for each person. He is very kind. If we sincerely express to God the sinfulness of ourselves, God will accept us." This kind of a kind image of God appeals more to the Japanese, and not only the Japanese but Oriental people in general.

Is this the female, the maternal concept of God?
Yes. Rather than the paternal. Most bishops who gathered at this synod in Rome thought there is no balanced teaching for Oriental people. If somebody believes in God because of this propagation of the missionaries, afterwards day by day, little by little, they feel this religion that they were told about by missionaries does not fit into their lives and psychological understanding.

How many vocations are there are in your archdiocese?
Very few. Now we have only three scholastics in the six-year scholasticate. Only three. And we have 84 parishes, two stations regularly serviced by a priest from another parish and three stations not regularly serviced by a priest in our diocese. Now the priests are getting older and older, and many have died.

What are your concerns regarding the priesthood in your archdiocese?
In my diocese there are 51 archdiocesan priests and 127 priests of Religious orders and missionary congregations. The average age of all of these priests is 63. The average age of the total of 96 priests working in parishes is 61.4. But day by day, missionary fathers (priests) die, also diocesan fathers. For example, last year until June, seven died. How can we cope with that situation?

What do you do in this situation?
In the southern part of our archdiocese, we have five church buildings and parishes, but only two priests. This is already the fact now. In the east of the archdiocese also, for five parishes there are only two priests. So we cannot give a priest to every parish.

Do you have any plan of action?
I do not have a plan. But the reason I came here was to appeal to the bishops of Asia to develop, with the bishops' conference of each country, some systematic program to structure or to gather missionary candidates and make a commitment as a missionary for Asia.

And especially for Japan?
Of course (laughs).

But how will that work, when you cited different concepts of God and different cultures, besides disparity in language?
Maybe within Asian countries it has a chance. All missionaries from Asian countries may be closer to our culture, our character. We will be closer to each other than with European missionaries. For example, both sides should respect each other, should be very humble.

You understand each other better?
A little bit better, since there should not be problems. But the Taiwanese said that if they accept missionaries from other countries, even Asian countries, the culture is different from theirs. So it is still difficult for them to propagate the faith.

Do you think that your proposal for Asian missioners will be accepted by the Church in Asia?
I do not know. But I hope.

Given the constraints, how do you assess pastoral care in your archdiocese?
The people there recognize this difficulty. Now we are promoting a team of lay faithful themselves to conduct catechism classes and reach out to people from outside to prepare them for baptism. I am moving from one parish to the other to push this idea.

We translated the textbooks of the Lumko Missiological Institute (in South Africa). They made a very nice new catechism promotion textbook and we translated it into Japanese. And people accept it very easily. [This form of teaching catechism] is not like one person teaching another. No. At first somebody picks up two or three verses from the Bible, and we share it with non-Catholics, and there is a connection with the people's sense of life. So even Catholics learn something from non-Catholics.

But to make a curriculum is also not so easy, because we conduct this kind of class once a week. And after 18 months, we may finish one course. At least after four-and-a-half years, we finish all the instructions after having gone through the essentials of the Catholic faith.

The textbook comes from Africa?
Yes, it was translated into many languages, I heard about 60. It was first published 13 years ago, and immediately after that it was all over the world in many countries, translated into many languages. The pictures inside the book are too African in style, so we couldn't use it unchanged. We had to use pictures that suit our style.

What would you say are your main concerns in Japan?
It is difficult to get missionaries and the number of priests is decreasing very much. We have another program in which we concentrate three to five parishes in one bloc. If in this bloc a priest dies, we cannot replace him, and the remaining priests have to take over the duties.

At the same time, we have to consider that many church buildings were erected shortly after the Second World War. These buildings are now very old. We need new buildings or renovation. But we do not have money. We do not have the money for maintenance. The parishioners had a lot of meetings among themselves and they decided what to do with the buildings.

What do they want to do with the empty church buildings?
That is actually not so good. They maybe want to sell the land and the buildings to some company. And they will then gather in the future in one church building.

How is the situation of women Religious?
Women Religious are also getting very old. They cannot get new vocations. The number of young sisters is very small.

What are the reasons for not having so many priestly vocations and women Religious?
The main reason, perhaps, is that our country became economically a top-class country. As a result, many people are interested in material things, and their level of life reflects that materialism. They are not interested in spiritual things. There is very hard competition to enter a good university and to be employed by a good company. That is the interest of the people.

Even students in elementary school or middle school too, their interest is not spiritual or involved with the Catholic faith. People are not interested in pursuing a life as a priest or Religious.

Do you have a program for vocations?
We have. We make retreats for vocations or we give suggestions to become a Religious or a priest. We speak about it often but actually the result is zero. So we are tired.

And you need missioners?
Yes, that is the reason why I think nobody from Taiwan attended this meeting here in Thailand. And from Hong Kong only one. The reason is, they tried, they made an effort like the Japanese for vocations. They tried many things. But they are tired. And the result is zero. To have baptisms is also the same in Japan, Hong Kong and Taiwan. Very few have become Catholics.

Christianity is mostly seen as a foreign religion. As you know, the famous Japanese novelist Shusaku Endo, I think he is one of the successful Catholic people to have helped with inculturation. In the field of music, the composer Saburo Takata also inculturated successfully. So as Catholics, we have to appeal more to the Japanese mind.


Following recent disclosures of Korean government involvement in the 1973 kidnaping in Tokyo of an opposition leader, the former archbishop of Tokyo has spoken about his own secret involvement in the case.

On Oct. 24, a South Korean government investigating committee released a report concerning the Aug. 8, 1973, abduction of opposition leader Kim Dae-jung, who had been critical of Park Chung-hee, president of Korea at that time. The report admitted that the kidnaping was the work of the South Korean National Intelligence Agency (NIA).

Five days after the kidnaping and his being brought to Korea, Kim was released in his neighborhood in Seoul, but he continued to live under house arrest.

Cardinal Seiichi Shirayanagi, then archbishop of Tokyo, made an appeal on behalf of Japan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs for Kim's freedom while he was under house arrest. The appeal did not have a visible effect, but there are some secrets to tell.

After Kim's kidnaping from a Tokyo hotel, the fingerprints of the head secretary of the Korean embassy to Japan were found at the scene, so Korean authorities were suspected of involvement in the crime. The Japanese government protested the infringement on Japanese sovereignty.

" When the Kim's health took a turn for the worse, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs called on me," said Cardinal Shirayanagi in an Oct. 31 interview with the Catholic Weekly. "The Japanese government seemed to feel insulted and frustrated."

According to the cardinal, officials at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs were looking for some way to get Kim into a hospital.

" Since at that time I had a lot of influence with the Korean Church, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was looking to get the cooperation of the Church," he said.

The cardinal, who was archbishop of Tokyo at that time, had been supporting the democratization movement in Korea. "I was blacklisted" by the government, he said, so he couldn't enter the country.

An official from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs suggested that Shirayanagi go briefly to a third country, and then return to Japan by way of Seoul. Making use of a transit visa, within 72 hours he found himself able to get into Seoul via Hong Kong. Upon his arrival at the Seoul airport, a car from the Japanese embassy, bearing the flag, was waiting to pick him up.

" I think the Japanese government somehow made arrangements," he said.

The then-archbishop got in the car and drove to meet with a church official in Seoul. Wary of the possibility of their conversation being recorded, they talked while walking the city streets.

According to the cardinal, "But that person told me, 'In my estimation, it's still early (for the Church to get involved).' After all that work, it didn't lead to a solution."

Kim, who is Catholic, went on to become president of Korea in 1998 and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2000. He expressed deep dissatisfaction that the recent report still avoids certain facts, and criticized the Japanese government for declaring the issue closed rather than pursuing more clarification.


The Third Asian Congress on Pilgrimages and Shrines was held Oct. 15-17 at the Nagasaki Catholic Center under the auspices of Cardinal Renato Martino, president of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People. Eighty-two delegates from 11 countries discussed "Pilgrimages and Shrines, Places of Hope."

On the opening day, the apostolic nuncio to Japan, Archbishop Alberto Bottari De Castello; Osaka archbishop Jun Ikenaga, vice-president of the Catholic Bishop's Conference of Japan; Saitama bishop Daiji Tani of the Catholic Commission of Japan for Migrants, Refugees and People on the Move and Genjiro Kaneko, governor of Nagasaki prefecture, delivered welcoming speeches.

Nagasaki archbishop Mitsuaki Takami opened the second day with an exhortation to hope. Citing Sirach 34:13, he told attendees that hope is promised us by the Lord's mercy. In a workshop, a delegate from Nagasaki reported that visitors were increasing since the "Churches and Christian Sites in Nagasaki" had been placed on the tentative list of World Heritage sites and the decision to hold the 2008 beatification ceremony for 188 Japanese martyr there. The archdiocese is putting more effort into providing information about those two attractions.

A Filipino participant spoke of the difficulty of getting across to people the fact that places of pilgrimage and shrines are places of grace and hope. Another Filipino reported on providing assistance to handicapped visitors. Difficulties in distinguishing between pilgrimage and sightseeing were also discussed.

On the last day delegates confirmed a summary report. A last-minute motion to support the campaign to make Churches and Christian Sites in Nagasaki a World Heritage site by sending a letter of support to UNESCO was approved unanimously.

Archbishop Agostino Marchetto, secretary of the Vatican council, asked the delegates' opinion regarding organizing a plenary meeting in Rome in two or three years' time. The delegates approved and also agreed to organize a Fourth Asian Congress.

Among the participants there were some whose main area of activity is work with refugees rather than pilgrims, or who came just to learn more about pilgrimages. Fr. Isao Hashimoto of Nagasaki archdiocese told a reporter that there are shades of meaning varying from one country to another. He said he hopes to someday see an Asian pilgrim route that goes through various nations of Asia.

Archbishop Marchetto summed up a closing remark, saying, "Our life itself is a pilgrimage to God. Being on a pilgrimage we understand that we are living a life of pilgrims. We can feel that God is within ourselves when we pay a visit to a shrine, as it is place of faith, a place of mercy and a place of peace. The success of this congress owed much to Asian 'colors,' on which we are to touch upon in the final report."

As an extra activity, participants took part in a tour of the Twenty-Six Martyrs Museum and Monument and a Mass at Oura Tenshudo (Oura Church, a national treasure), both in Nagasaki.


Chaplains at two Catholic- and 10 Protestant-affiliated hospitals in the Kinki region hold regular meetings twice yearly in order to increase research and sharing with the hope of improving the quality of their work. Christian hospitals, operating within the framework of the Japanese health care system, have in recent years been struggling to attain both profitable operations and care based on Christian principles.

The 23rd Kinki Regional Chaplains' Communications Meeting was held Sept. 24 at Himeji St. Mary's Hospital in Hyogo prefecture. Thirteen chaplains from seven Christian hospitals took part in discussions on the theme "Bedside Care in Practice."

The primary job of a chaplain assigned to a hospital is to provide emotional and spiritual care to the ill, but in reality their jobs are more diverse. They assist the patients' deep "conversation" with "something holy" (i.e. God) while respecting the individuals' religions. At the same time their role as evangelists of a Christian mentality to all members of their parent organizations has become more important due to the lessened involvement of Religious and a dearth of Christian staff members.

" When the homeless are brought to us, naturally they find welcome at our hospitals. In order to accept the poor who cannot afford to pay for treatment, the presence of social workers who understand a Christian mentality is essential. This means that the chaplains' work in teaching employees about Christian principles is of the utmost importance," explained Himeji St. Mary's Hospital chaplain Franciscan Fr. Akira Fujiwara.

At Himeji St. Mary's, all new workers are given an orientation, and twice a year the organization conducts philosophical training for members of the staff. Among approximately 600 workers, about 5 percent (7 percent, when nuns are included) are Christians. So, even if training sessions were held for 25 workers at a time, it would take about 10 years to cover everyone. Moreover, the nurses are very busy and, if they leave the organization, they must be replaced with dizzying speed.

Pastor Eisuke Tamura (Reformed Church), chaplain at Yodogawa Christian Hospital, said, "Our goal is an operation that is both stable and in conformity with the health care system, but at private hospitals nurses typically end up quitting after three or four years due to the hard work. For that reason, efforts to promote a Christian mentality are necessary at all times. We have about 1,000 employees, and Christians make up only 13 percent. We hold morning prayer every day, and we root our service to the sick in body, mind, and soul in the love of Christ. Every morning nearly 300 people gather, so our morning prayers are an important time to inculcate Christian principles in our employees."

The Japan Baptist Hospital is engaged in ongoing efforts to advocate a Christian mindset among its employees as well, conducting activities like morning prayer, a "Christianity Week" and speaking events on spiritual topics. Pastor Kyoko Hamamoto (United Church of Christ) is responsible for a "Pastors' Training" program at the Japan Baptist School of Nursing, where she teaches about the duties of chaplaincy.

Laying the foundation for profitability is extremely difficult, requiring such investments as high-quality practitioners, state-of-the-art medical technology, imported MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) machines at 100 million yen apiece and the digitalization of hospital records requiring well over one billion yen. There have been cases of Catholic hospitals falling on hard financial times and ending up being handed over to other corporations.

According to Pastor Masunaga Okamura (United Church of Christ), chaplain of Vories Memorial Hospital, his organization is deeply concerned about the spiritual care given to the handicapped and elderly people with disabilities. In September, Vories Memorial established a new "Ward for the Disabled" for those whose hospital stays are relatively long.

The chaplains cooperate beyond denominational differences to ensure the survival of high-quality Christian medical institutions.


SAM PHRAN, Thailand (UCAN) -- Archbishop Jun Ikenaga of Osaka surprised many at the first symposium on Asian vocations by calling for Asian countries to send missioners to Japan.

On the first working day of the Asian Vocations Today conference, being held Oct. 22-27 at Bangkok archdiocese's pastoral training center in Sam Phran, 30 kilometers west of Bangkok, the Japanese prelate called for help. He asked for a structured program for Asian countries "blessed with many vocations" to send priests, Religious and other missioners to their sister countries with extremely few vocations, Japan being one of these.

Speaking on Oct. 23 to 125 bishops and priests in charge of vocations, including seminary rectors from more than 20 countries, the Jesuit archbishop said: "Rather than depend on other continents as we did in the past, I feel that Asian countries should work more closely together for the growth of God's Kingdom in Asia."

Japanese Catholics account for only 0.4 percent of Japan's 127 million population, he pointed out. Foreign Catholics in the country outnumber them.

In the past, according to Archbishop Ikenaga, it was "taken for granted" that European and American countries would send missioners to Africa and Asia. Due to decreased numbers of vocations in recent years, however, these continents have "begun asking Asian and African countries to send them priests and Religious."

The prelate remarked that while vocations are plentiful in Latin American countries, "Latin American seminarians show interest in going as missionaries to Africa -- they are not interested in Asia."

The former head of the Jesuits in Japan said he saw on his visits to eight countries in Latin America that missioners "do not seem to find any challenge in devoting their lives to economically powerful areas like Hong Kong, Taiwan and Japan, but would rather help economically deprived areas."

His experience has convinced him that if the bishops' conferences in Asian countries "blessed with many vocations, like India, Vietnam, the Philippines and Indonesia," could inaugurate foreign mission societies, it would greatly help Asian countries short of vocations.

As he explained later to UCA News, he thinks Asians would find it easier to grasp the environment and culture in another Asian area than would missioners from outside the continent.

Initial reactions of symposium participants during an open forum after his speech indicated that they shared the archbishop's deep concern but also felt language and cultural problems, especially in Japan, could be hindrances.

During morning Mass, Bishop George Yod Phimphisan of Udon Thani said the Thai bishops have already started something that comes close to Archbishop Ikenaga's idea. In his homily, the president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Thailand spoke about the Thai Mission Society. The society, founded in 1990, sends a few priests to neighboring Cambodia and, "with difficulties," to Laos.

Bishop Phimphisan cited Pope John Paul II's observation that the first millennium of Christianity was for Europe, and the second for America and Africa, while the third millennium is for Asia. "Here, I see not only a prophet, but also a challenge for us," the Redemptorist bishop said.

The first Asian Vocations Symposium aims to highlight the cultural and socioeconomic contexts of vocations but also the nature of religious vocation as a radical following of Christ, Cardinal Michael Michai Kitbunchu of Bangkok explained.

Serra International, the international lay network to promote priestly and Religious vocations, has organized the symposium in conjunction with two offices of the Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences (FABC): the Office for Clergy and the Office for Consecrated Life.

Chainarong Monthienvichienchai, former president of Serra International, told UCA News on Oct. 23 that Serra proposed the idea of such a symposium to the Pontifical Work for Priestly Vocations in Rome.

" In other continents, Pontifical Work is the organizer," Chainarong said, but "here, with the help of Serra International, it is the other way round." Chainarong, now a Serra adviser, hopes the FABC will continue with what this symposium has begun.

Serra, founded in 1935 in Seattle, the United States, is named after Blessed Junipero Serra, a Spanish Franciscan missioner who founded many missions in Mexico and California in the 18th century. It has spread to 36 countries.


The campus of Fukuoka St. Sulpice Major Seminary in Fukuoka city covers more than 50,000 square meters, the size of four baseball fields. Surrounded by a rich forest, it provides training for seminarian studying to become priests for the Fukuoka, Kagoshima, Nagasaki, Naha, and Oita dioceses.

" October's baccalaureate (cumulative test) is coming up soon now, so it's tough. I've got to give it my all. It all comes down to this," said Deacon Katsunari Nohama of the Nagasaki archdiocese to a reporter. He is completing his fourth and final year alongside his classmate, Deacon Katsuake Yamasoe, also of Nagasaki.

There are 18 seminarians ranging in age from 23 to 56 currently studying at the school. The main teaching staff are Sulpician priests, member of a society of secular clergy dedicated to the formation of priests.

" Our (Sulpician) spirit is to serve the diocesan clergy as diocesan priests, even though working for priests isn't easy," Fr. Tsuyomi Makiyama, the seminary rector, said with a laugh.

There are seven teachers (Sulpicians and others) in residence at the seminary. Sisters of the Infant Jesus of Chauffailles run the kitchen and visiting professors and other staff members make up the rest of the campus population.

Commenting on the students' living arrangements, Fr. Makiyama, who was a theology student nearly 20 years ago, said, "I shared a bedroom for the first two years; while studying philosophy, it was two to a room. When I got to theological study, I got my own room." Now, everyone has his own room.

According to Hiroshi Iwashita, a third-year student from Nagasaki, "I think the formation staff and the students have a real seriousness about them that contribute to life here."

" Besides preparing classes, the teaching staff have other duties as well, so I think they have it tough," said second-year student Naomichi Nakao, another Nagasaki seminarian. He added, "You can feel relaxed with the people here. When I came back here after summer vacation, I had a feeling that this is where I belong."

Commenting on the age spread of the students, Nakao said, "Some can't play soccer, but when it comes to baseball, everyone can play together."

Another third-year student, Hirokatsu Kawano, transferred to the Oita diocese from a religious order last year. "There are many young people with a lot of energy and life is easy surrounded by nature," he said.

He added, "The teachers are young, too, and they're all fired up. Since we're all living together, they teach us a lot about what we might not know."

In Fr. Makiyama's time, most of the seminarians were graduates of minor seminaries in Nagasaki and Fukuoka that combined junior and senior high school programs. Only the Nagasaki minor seminary continues to operate and fewer than half the seminarians at St. Sulpice now are minor seminary graduates.

The seminarians' day starts with morning prayer at 6:15, and continues with meditation and Mass. Classes are held from Monday to Saturday, with no afternoon classes on Tuesday, Friday and Saturday. After class time students are free for things like sports and shopping. Thirty minutes of the evening is given over to "sacred time," a period of silent reflection. Night prayers are after dinner and everyone goes to bed at around 11:00 PM. On Sunday, students help out at local parishes.


hamao Cardinal Fumio Hamao, former head of the Vatican's Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People and bishop emeritus of Yokohama, died in a Tokyo hospital on the evening of Nov. 8. He was 77 years old. He had returned to Japan in October for treatment of lung cancer that had been diagnosed in Rome in September.

In 1998, he became the first Japanese to head a Vatican office and in 2003 he became the fifth Japanese cardinal.

This year marked the 50th anniversary of Cardinal Hamao's ordination to the priesthood and one year since the death of his elder brother Minoru, who was a chamberlain to the emperor of Japan when he was crown prince.

In a message of condolence to Bishop Masahiro Umemura of Yokohama, Cardinal Hamao's successor in that diocese, Pope Benedict XVI praised the cardinal for his "devoted witness to the Gospel, his lively concern for the poor and his generous service to the universal church."

As a member of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Japan (CBCJ), the cardinal had headed committees dealing with education, international cooperation and minority rights as well as serving as president of the conference from 1995 to 1998. He also worked toward developing ties among the Churches of Asia, working with the FABC (Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences) Office of Human Development. He also initiated the annual meeting of Japanese and Korean bishops that has continued since 1996.

The cardinal was noted for his forthrightness in presenting his opinions regarding the Vatican. While serving as CBCJ president, he attracted international attention when Japan's bishops led criticism of the topics chosen by the Vatican for discussion at the Special Synod for Asia held in Rome in 1996.

Even after his retirement, he continued to be outspoken in interviews with the press, criticizing the Eurocentrism of the Vatican and calling for more African and Asian involvement in the curia.

When he was called to Rome to head the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People in 1998, his fluency in several languages, his sense of humor and his willingness to travel anywhere to spend time with refugees, seafarers, circus workers and Roma (gypsies) became hallmarks of his ministry.

Japan's ambassador to the Vatican, Kagefumi Ueno, said of the cardinal, "He was uninhibited, a man of quick wit and spending time with him was always a pleasure."

The ambassador described a visit to the cardinal's sickbed.

"A month ago, I went with my wife to visit the cardinal in the hospital. He was in high spirits and said, 'The main problem is that this bed is too small.' He was certainly a big man, and we got the impression he would soon recover."

Cardinal Hamao retired from the pontifical council in 2006, a year after he submitted his resignation upon reaching his 75th birthday. He later said he was disappointed the Vatican had neither consulted him nor offered advance notice of changes to his office when he left and it was placed under the leadership of the president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. In fact, he said, he had found out about the changes when he read about them in a newspaper.

Cardinal Seiichi Shirayanagi, retired archbishop of Tokyo, told an interviewer, "The last time I spoke with him, he talked about the Roma and mourned the fact that there is no one at the council following up on his work to advance their rights."

From 1970 until he was named bishop of Yokohama in 1979, Cardinal Hamao was Cardinal Shirayanagi's auxiliary bishop in Tokyo.

Commenting on the work of the pontifical council, Cardinal Hamao once said it was an important reminder to the rest of the church.

"In general, the Catholic Church in the world is interested only in pastoral care through parishes," he said. "But there are millions of people in the world without a fixed domicile, therefore no parish, and they deserve pastoral care, too."

After his retirement from the migrants' council, the cardinal remained in Rome, where he continued to serve as a consultor for the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples and the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.

In the latter congregation, he advanced the cause of 188 Japanese martyrs who will be beatified next year.

The cardinal had said that after he left Rome he hoped to work for the Church in East Asia. Toward that end, he recently visited Siberia, North Korea and China and had started studying Korean.

Cardinal Hamao was born in Tokyo March 9, 1930, and was baptized when he was 16 years old. He began university studies but then entered the seminary in Tokyo in 1949.

"God grabbed me and put me in the seminary," he said, although some priests said "it was too soon."

He was sent to Rome in 1951 to complete his seminary education, earning degrees in philosophy and theology from the Pontifical Urbanian University and a degree in canon law from the Pontifical Gregorian University.

After his 1957 ordination in Rome, he returned to Tokyo and worked in the chancery and ministered in the cathedral. He was also responsible for ministry to students in the archdiocese.

Cardinal Hamao's funeral was held Nov. 12 at the Tokyo Cathedral, with Cardinal Shirayanagi as principal celebrant and representative of Pope Benedict XVI. Some 1,800 people, including about 200 bishops and priests, took part in the concelebrated Mass.

Cardinal Hamao's death leaves the College of Cardinals with 178 members. Of them,103 are under age 80 and eligible to vote in a conclave to elect a new pope. After Pope Benedict creates new cardinals Nov. 24, there will be a total of 201 cardinals of whom 120 will be papal electors.

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