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TENS OF THOUSANDS JOIN BEATIFICATION RITES FOR 188 JAPANESE MARTYRS

US BISHOP ADDRESSES MEETING ON ARTICLE 9, WORLD PEACE

THEY WOULD NOT GIVE IN

NEW PARISH IN JOSO IS ERECTING BUILDING, BUILDING COMMUNITY

SAPPORO LAY ASSEMBLY LEARNS ABOUT MARTYRS, WYD

PILGRIMS VISIT SITE OF NAGASAKI CHRISTIANS' EXILE

FINAL PREPARATIONS FOR BEATIFICATION INCLUDE ORGANIZING FIRST AID TEAMS

HECTIC PREPARATIONS IN NAGASAKI FOR NOV. 24 BEATIFICATION

CHILDREN GATHER TO LEARN ABOUT MARTYRS

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Japan Catholic News


November 2008



TENS OF THOUSANDS JOIN BEATIFICATION RITES FOR 188 JAPANESE MARTYRS

More than 30,000 pilgrims took part in the Nov. 24 beatification of Peter Kibe and 187 other Japanese martyred between 1603 and 1639.

Cardinal José Saraiva Martins, prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, represented Pope Benedict XVI at the ceremony in Nagasaki's Big N Stadium baseball park.

Other Church dignitaries at the ceremony included Cardinal Ivan Dias, prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, and other bishops representing the Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences or national hierarchies in Asia. Protestant representatives also attended, as did delegates from other religions. Japan's ambassador to the Vatican, Kagefumi Ueno, represented the government.

The day began with sometimes-heavy rain, but when Cardinal Seiichi Shirayanagi, retired archbishop of Tokyo and principal celebrant of the Mass, began his homily the sun broke through the clouds.

Noriko Kawahara, a 65-year-old parishioner of the Hatsukaichi Church in Hiroshima prefecture, described her arrival in Nagasaki with a busload of pilgrims who had visited various martyrdom sites in Kyushu.

"Just as we approached Nagasaki, the rain stopped and we could see the city clearly. Some of us were moved to tears," she said.

In addition to the bus pilgrims, a group of 80 youths who walked overnight 58 kilometers from Unzen, the site of many of the martyrdoms, arrived at 10:00 am.

At noon, the Mass, concelebrated by some 500 priests, opened with the placing on the altar of a reliquary containing the vertebra of a Japanese martyr, a candle that had been carried from place throughout the country for Masses with young people and soil from each of the places where the newly-blessed had been born, lived or been martyred.

Following the Penitential Rite of the Mass, the Beatification Rite began with a formal request by the president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Japan, Tokyo Archbishop Takeo Okada, for the beatification. Then Fr. Fernando Rojo, who coordinated the beatification process in Rome, introduced the martyrs as a group. Following that, the nine bishops in whose dioceses the martyrdoms took place introduced the individual martyrs. Finally, Cardinal Saraiva Martins read the pope's letter declaring that July 1 would be the memorial of Blessed Peter Kibe and 187 other martyrs.

A picture representing the blessed martyrs was then unveiled and 188 doves were released. Abp. Okada expressed his thanks to the cardinal and the Mass continued with the singing of the Gloria.

In his homily, Cardinal Shirayanagi pointed out that the martyrs were chosen to represent the various sections of Japan and Japanese society. He stressed that the strong bonds among families that were martyred present an important message today.

"[The martyrs] are calling us who live in Japan where more than 30,000 kill themselves every year. They are inviting us to seriously reflect on the fundamental questions about life: what is life, what is death, for what do we live, what is the purpose of life, what is the meaning of suffering. … They are calling us to work for a more just and humane world where every human being is respected, cared for and enjoys life. Dear brothers and sisters, let us journey together unafraid. The martyrs are telling us not to be afraid. God is telling us not to be afraid."

Participants in the ceremony came from all over Japan.

Sixty-year-old Takako Kamiyama said, "I'll bet I'm the participant from the farthest south." Her parish, the Ishigaki Church in Okinawa prefecture, is Japan's southernmost parish.

Fumio Nakata came from the far north, the Kushiro Church in Hokkaido. The 75-year-old said that he and 25 companions decided last year to participate in the ceremony after hearing a talk about the martyrs by Bishop Osamu Mizobe of Takamatsu, chair of the bishops' committee for the beatification.

Though he is from the Oso Church on Kami Goto island in Nagasaki prefecture and his ancestors were Christians, Kiyokazu Ikuta, 50, said that taking part in the ceremony gave him an opportunity to understand the history of the Church in Nagasaki.

"Though we've been Christians for generations and I live in the area, there was a lot I didn't know. This is a chance to take a new look at history," he said.

Yusuke Inakuma said he came because his mother telephoned him suggesting that he do so.

The 20-year-old said, "I didn't know anything about the martyrs, but now I'm really struck at what great models they are."

In addition to pilgrims from all over Japan, others came from abroad.

Vu Hong An, a 34-year-old Vietnamese, said he decided just two weeks earlier to come to Japan because, "It's the sort of ceremony you almost never get to take part in."

He also joined the youth pilgrimage, walking for two hours in the morning rain.

There were about 230 pilgrims from Korea. One of them, Choi Hui Chel, 64, from Taegu archdiocese said, "At my age, I'm grateful for the chance to take part. That's why I came."

Bishop Thomas Dabre of Vasai, India, represented the Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences (FABC). He said, "[The Japanese blessed] show that the Church is not just a Western one, but belongs to the whole world."

Adding that in his own country Christians are being persecuted, the bishop said, "We can draw strength and hope from the example of the Japanese martyrs."

Among the more than 200 police and 3,000 volunteers at the ceremony were more than 400 members of the Nagasaki Archdiocesan Women's Organization who served as ushers and receptionists.

There were many volunteers who were not Christians. Etsuko Ikeda, 19, was among about 300 student volunteers from the Nagasaki Junshin College, a Catholic school. She was in charge of escorting foreign visitors. "There's so much to learn from the martyrs that I wanted to have something to do with this," she said.



US BISHOP ADDRESSES MEETING ON ARTICLE 9, WORLD PEACE

The Japan Catholic Council for Justice and Peace (J&P), an arm of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Japan (CBCJ) and Pax Christi, a USA-based Catholic peace movement has developed a close relationship in recent years.

Bishop Goro Matsuura, auxiliary of Osaka, participated in the 2006 Pax Christi general meeting, followed by Nagasaki Archbishop Mitsuaki Takami in 2007. David Robinson, executive director of Pax Christi, took part of the 2008 Osaka meeting of J&P.

Bishop Gabino Zavala, auxiliary of the Los Angeles archdiocese and president of Pax Christi USA, was invited to attend the Nov. 29-Dec.1 Asia Inter-Religious Conference on Article 9 and Peace in Asia at the Infant Jesus Sisters Nicolas Barré Convent in Tokyo.

In his remarks, the bishop said, "When the revolutions of 1989 collapsed the Soviet-style communist states. people thought that world peace would finally come true. But the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001 betrayed the hope. What occurred was nothing but a change from a counter-communism war to a counter-terrorism war. US political leaders' insistence on using military power and intervention in other countries remained unchanged."

"The strong military-industrial complex survives, and the financial crisis weakens US leadership. The administration is tempted to resort to more bellicose policies. Dangers grow imminent," he added.

"We expected a debate in the recent presidential election campaign that would lead to an understanding of the truth that what violence leaves behind is more violence," the bishop said. "However, the debates went around warfare. John McCain said, 'Last year's military build-up helped a down-turn of the suicide bomb attacks in Iraq,' while Barack Obama declared that the Iraq war was a blunder, but an intensified fight against the Taliban and its al-Qaida allies in Afghanistan must be maintained."

"The Iraq war sacrificed a million citizens and inflicted serious war aftermath on several hundred thousands of American soldiers. True courage is to admit mistakes and learn a lesson to correct them. War leaves behind only anger and hatred, as Pope John Paul II said. A true enduring peace can only be achieved through peace-seeking dialogues, never through violent retaliation."

"The widened gap of poverty and wealth and discrimination against immigrants and foreigners have become a serious problem in America, which is named 'inside wars.'"

"We learned from the Japan Catholic Council for Justice and Peace about the recent realignment of the US military strategies for the Asian-Pacific region. In this respect Article 9 of Japan's Constitution is a hope. The supremacy of dialogue must be built into the nation's mental and moral foundation, so that spirit should be reflected in its foreign policy. A war-free government will then be possible, the possibility of another world replacing hostility with love in international politics."

(Note: Though Bishop Zavala spoke in English, his comments in this account are translated from the Japanese newspaper account of his talk and may differ somewhat in vocabulary.)

"Nippon Notes" by William Grimm
THEY WOULD NOT GIVE IN

TOKYO (UCAN) -- On Nov. 24, around 30,000 pilgrims including bishops and groups from other Asian nations gathered in a baseball stadium in Nagasaki for a celebration marking the beatification of 188 Japanese martyrs who died between 1603 and 1639.

The newly beatified were chosen to represent perhaps as many as 50,000 Japanese Catholics who died in persecution that began in 1597 (though Christianity was outlawed 10 years earlier) and did not end until 1873, when Western nations pressured the Japanese government to recognize freedom of religion.

In order to be representative, the chosen are mostly lay men and women from various parts of the country as well as four priests and a Religious brother. They range in age from two 1-year-old babies to an 80-year-old samurai and his wife. Among them are members of the aristocracy and poor folk, families and individuals.

The martyrs were executed in various ways -- beheaded, drowned, crucified, burned at the stake, boiled alive, starved in prisons and hung upside-down in a pit of sewage. That last torture was especially used on priests.

The Japanese persecution may have been the worst in the history of the Church. The Roman persecution, which lasted about the same number of years, probably took 15,000 or so lives. The Romans focused mainly on the Church's leaders, which is why so many of the martyrs from that time were bishops and deacons. The authorities assumed that if they destroyed the heads, the members would give in and abandon their faith. But they would not give in.

The Japanese persecution did not focus on any particular group. Any and every Catholic was a potential victim. For nearly 280 years, they hid, they gathered in secret, they prayed, they passed on their faith to the generations that followed, and when they were discovered, they suffered and died. But they would not give in.

Such persecution, whether it be in Rome or Japan in the past, or India or Iraq today, can be easily ended. All it requires is that Christians be willing to abandon Christ who lived and died for them. Burn incense to the divine emperor, trample on an icon and register at a Buddhist temple, undergo a Hindu conversion ritual or declare that Muhammad is God's prophet, and the danger will pass. In other words, Christians in every age have held the means to end persecution. But they would not give in.

The word "martyr" comes from a Greek word that means a witness. In English, "witness" has two meanings. The first is a spectator, one who sees something happening. In that sense, the officials who oversaw the execution of Catholics were witnesses. However, the Greek word refers to the second English meaning, one who gives testimony.

Today in Japan we no longer face death for following Christ, but we are still called to bear witness to him, to testify that faithfulness to him is more important than life itself. We are called to a kind of martyrdom that does not entail physical suffering and death, though it may entail strange looks and derogatory comments from those around us.

The Japanese martyrs force us to face some difficult questions. Have I ever said at work, at school, among friends, at home or even in the Church: "No, I cannot do that. I will not do that (because I am a Christian)"? In this time of economic uncertainty, have I ever said to myself or my family, "We will have to change our plans, because money is tight and we must not cut back on the time and money we have budgeted to help others"? When work, school or neighborhood events are scheduled for Sunday morning (a common occurrence in Japan), do I ever say, "I will be late or absent because there is nothing more important than gathering with my fellow Catholics to hear the word of God and share the Eucharist"?

In other words, in a world that does not understand or make allowances for my faith, do I testify to that faith? Am I a fitting member of this Church of martyrs? When the time comes for me, for us, to meet the Lord and the martyrs face to face, will they say of us, "They would not give in"?


Maryknoll Father William Grimm is the editor-in-chief of Katorikku Shimbun, Japan's Catholic weekly.
Opinions expressed in this column are those of the writer and do not represent the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Japan.


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NEW PARISH IN JOSO IS ERECTING BUILDING, BUILDING COMMUNITY

The city of Joso, in southwest Ibaraki prefecture, was created in Jan. 2006 from a union of the Mizukaido and Ishigemachi districts, is home to many Brazilian immigrants who have come to work in the several industrial parks in the area.

The presence of the Brazilians has fostered the growth of the new Joso Church, one of six new churches planned in the Saitama diocese under Bishop Daiji Tani. Sacred Hearts Father Andrew Healey is pastor of the new church, while also being responsible for the Tsukuba Church. The consecration ceremony of the church building on land acquired by the diocese on Mt. Kono is set for February of next year.

Born in Japan with a Brazilian-style upbringing, Carmelite Sr. Mitsue Shirohama has been working with the local priests since 2000. In that time, four Brazilian priests from Tokyo and other areas have ministered to the parish needs, offering Mass at Ishigemachi Community Center on the first Sunday of each month. Since April of last year, Mass has also been offered on the third Sundays at the Mizukaidou City Community Center.

Since his arrival in Japan less than a year ago, Sacred Hearts Father Nelson Soverino de Souza has lived at Ibaraki's Mito Church, studying Japanese and ministering to the people of Joso parish.

He said, "For them, separated from their homeland, living in a tough situation, the Church takes a spiritual power; it becomes a place of healing for the body and soul, I think. But, they eventually return to churches in Brazil, and we just have to ask that their faith might increase. A new church is an important place as a foundation of community, and that's what we're yearning for."

Looking back, Sr. Shirohama said, "We've been doing pretty well so far. The number of people coming to Mass at Ishige was in decline at one time and community was weak, but we got over that hump and I'm happy to say that now 40 or 50 people come every month."

She added that the new Mizukaido community has started off lively. "I feel like they've been able to make consistent progress as a community."

Ishigemachi and Mizukaido are separated by approximately 10 kilometers, with Joso Church in the Ishigemachi district.

Sr. Shirohama said, "We've had to deal with a lot, but the two groups have managed to cooperate. Fostering a single collective spirit is the goal from here. Once we create a place for ourselves, we'll get more done."

Deacon Shoryu Nagazawa, a Japanese who is leading the building fund operations with the support of the new parishioners, worries about the Brazilians' integration into mainstream Japanese society.

"They were asking if this Easter they could take a holiday from work and come to church, but (their workplaces) didn't look on it very kindly," he said. "Japanese and foreigners are (supposed to be) the same, though I know there are times when foreigners have stricter working conditions than the Japanese."

On the other hand, Sr. Shirohama worries that if Brazilian priests just arriving in Japan try to impose a Brazilian style on their new community, they're asking for long years of struggle for the foreign Catholics.

"I have been the same: we don't know what life immigrants should be asked to live," she said.

Deacon Nagazawa, who in his dealings with the Brazilians witnesses their struggles up close, said, "With salaries 60 percent lower than Japanese salaries, we can say it's a disparate society. It's disparate from the moment they arrive. These people are buried in and surrounded by it; it's the norm."

But surviving that pressure makes them tough and dedicated, he added, so when they want to support the growth of the Church in Japan, they raise funds and get things done. He said he wanted to express his thanks to those people providing financial contributions to Joso Church.

"Next, as we think about the interior, we're hoping for everyone's support," he concluded.

SAPPORO LAY ASSEMBLY LEARNS ABOUT MARTYRS, WYD

The Sapporo dicoesan council for evangelization and pastoral care sponsored an Oct. 5 lay apostolate assembly at Fuji Gakuen school with the theme Celebrating the 188 Martyrs' Beatification: Praying, Witnessing and Evangelizing Together.

An opening Mass celebrated by Bishop Toshio Jinushi was followed by a lecture by Jesuit Father Shinzo Kawamura and reports from a two-day Mass servers' training camp and participants in the 2008 Sydney World Youth Day (WYD). During the session, drawings by Sunday school boys and girls were exhibited.

The diocese is so large that it took participants from remote parishes more than two-hours to drive to the gathering. Nevertheless, 900 people attended and about 30 children took part in the camp.

One of four young participants at WYD reported, "It turned out to be a bigger event than the Sydney Olympics," and added, "The sight of Pope Benedict XVI coming up to the altar was truly impressive."

Another added, "The power of the Holy Spirit really moved me. I learned the importance of the Sacrament of Penance as it bind us to the Lord and one another."

Fr. Kawamura, associate professor of Sophia University, spoke of "The significance of the 188 martyrs today and our mission for the evangelization of Japan." He introduced the fact that in the era of Christian persecution organizations of parishioners were formed at each church, the prototype of which was the parish-based Christian communities of 16th century Europe. He explained that sacraments had worked as the bond of parishioners and even when the banishment of priests was decreed and churches suffered from the drastic decrease of sacramental opportunities, parishioners unite themselves more strongly along with a fervent observance of the sacraments.

Fr. Kawamura took questions from the audience about the background of the persecution, why a Buddhist county like Japan allowed an explosive increase of new Christians, how farmers without education could understand Christian doctrines, barriers to the evangelization of today's Japan and the prospects for the Church's future.

PILGRIMS VISIT SITE OF NAGASAKI CHRISTIANS' EXILE

During this year's annual Tsurushima Pilgrimage, which was held overnight from Oct.12-13, participants walked a distance of about 40 km, from Okayama Church (the sponsor of the event, located in Okayama City) to Hinase Port, and went on to visit Tsurushima Island the following morning.

In 1867, as the Meiji Era was beginning, there also began a suppression of Christians in Nagasaki, which is known as the Urakami Yon-ban Kuzure, or Urakami's Fourth Collapse. During seven years of persecution, many Christians were exiled to Tsurushima, located in the Seto Inland Sea south of the city of Bizen, to prevent their escape and to work the land there.

The Tsurushima Pilgrimage was begun later by those hoping their journey along the Old Sanyo Road would be a way to remember the Urakami believers, as well as to follow one leg of the 800km path 26 Japanese saints walked through the area on their way to Nagasaki in the 16th Century.

This year, the 17 pilgrims who set out on the evening of the 12th, praying as they walked throughout the night, arrived at Hinase Port without mishap. After a short nap, they joined up with other Christians — in total, about 130 people, including seven priests and 10 elementary- and middle school students — and crossed over to Tsurushima on a chartered boat.

Pilgrims prayed the rosary at the graves of 17 martyrs, and an outdoor Mass was held before a stone monument.

In his homily, Fr. Yuzuru Sofuku of Okayama Church spoke of the mind set of the martyrs, who lived in awe of "the fact that they could call the Creator their Father and that they were called to live as children of God" and who would subsequently give up their lives. He spoke too of the "world of life" that Christ wished to give.

After Mass, the participants split up and spent time individually visiting gravestones, small shrines, and other sites before departing.

The Tsurushima Pilgrimage is a yearly custom, but Naoki Hamaguchi, parish council president of the Okayama Church, explained that this year it was also "aimed at building excitement for the beatification of Peter Kibe and the 187 martyrs."

Later, Shunji Mitsumata, honorary professor at Seibo Gakuin Junior College, gave a talk entitled "The Urakami Christians of the Okayama Exile" at Hinase City's Industry and Commerce Convention Center.

Mitsumata, after describing the lifestyles of those in exile during that period, remarked upon certain "converts" who had renounced their faith during the persecution, but later rejoined the Church after their return to Urakami. In Okayama, not only these people, but even their descendants have sometimes suffered unrelenting criticism, but Mitsumata questioned whether antagonism toward these people arose from a Christian way of thinking.

Further, he indicated that even those who renounced their faith and died in exile may have experienced a final conversion of heart, and warned of the difficulty of categorizing people as "martyrs and apostates."

In the end, the pilgrimage was brought to a close by a parting blessing from the priests.

This year, pilgrims came from as far away as Shiga and Yamaguchi Prefectures, and next year Urakami Church's own pilgrim group in Nagasaki, which this year was to make a pilgrimage to Yamaguchi instead, is also expected to participate.


FINAL PREPARATIONS FOR BEATIFICATION INCLUDE ORGANIZING FIRST AID TEAMS

Preparations to guarantee efficient medical care for 30,000 people expected to attend the Nov. 24 beatification of Peter Kibe and 187 martyrs entered the final stage on Nov. 2. Since many elderly Christians expected to come and spend hours in the early winter cold the Nagasaki Planning Committee has made special arrangements involving several other organizations.

According to Congregation of the Immaculate Heart of Mary of Nagasaki Sr. Kumiko Ohyama, who is in charge of the medical relief, teams consisting of one doctor, two nurses, and four volunteers will be available. At the ceremony, there will be 19 teams on the ground, 14 in the stands and five more at the first-aid station, with a total of 300 people.

"I started by trying at the Catholic Nurses Association's Nagasaki branch, and I also asked around at the Nagasaki branch of the Catholic Doctors Association," Sr. Ohyama said. "Four teams are coming from St. Mary's Hospital in Kurume, as well as two ambulances. They are the same people that offered relief after the Sumatran tsunami. People involved in Catholic medicine in Korea are also coming."

The medical station will be primarily located on the first-base side of the indoor stadium where the events will take place, with a second support station in the stands facing the second floor entrance. The phone number for the station will be 095-845-6222.

"For emergency patients, transportation and related considerations have been arranged at Nagasaki University Hospital," Sr. Ohyama said.

The medical staff is advising individual attendees to be aware of their own health and have enough water on hand, to take note after entering the stadium of where the medical stations are, to seek medical attention as soon as they feel bad, to bring their medical insurance cards, or copies of the cards, and have easily accessible a list of primary medical providers and current medications (including insulin and the like).

"And I shouldn't forget to say that if you don't feel well, it's better not to participate. Be aware of the toilet situation, and don't eat or drink too much. The medical staff will all be in green jackets, the doctors will have armbands and stethoscopes, and the nurses will be wearing yellow scarves, so be looking for them," Sr. Ohyama said.

The medical staff will be available on the beatification day from 9 AM to 5 PM. The staff will practice at the stadium twice in order to be ready for the crowds.

Nov. 23, the day before the beatification, four Nagasaki City churches, Urakami, Shiroyama, Oura, and 26 Martyrs, will hold prayer rallies. At Urakami Cathedral, Takamatsu's Bishop Osamu Mizobe, head of the Canonization and Beatification Special Committee, will lead the main ceremony, "A Prayer on the Eve." Shiroyama Church will host a "Mass of Thanks for the Beatification" organized by the Augustinians.

At the 26 Martyrs Memorial Altar, young Catholics are planning to meditate while reading Raise Your Sail in the Wind of Grace, and account of the martyrs. Then, for 20 minutes after 5 PM, they will pray along with the pope's representative to the beatification, Cardinal José Saraiva.

The four churches will offer the sacrament of reconciliation, and are looking for more priests to participate. the individual churches are not accepting requests from pilgrims for facilities to celebrate Masses on the eve of the beatification ceremony. Those seeking a location where they can celebrate Mass are encouraged to call the Nakamachi Church at 095-823-2484 which is coordinating such requests.

The beatification ceremony public relations committee has also issued a warning about participants, other than the press, taking photographs. It will not be permitted for audience members to take photos from the stands so that everyone will be able to see while remaining seated. No one will be allowed to get up from their seats to take pictures.


HECTIC PREPARATIONS IN NAGASAKI FOR NOV. 24 BEATIFICATION

The Nov. 24 beatification of Peter Kibe and 187 other martyrs will involve some 2,500 volunteers. To organize them and the other elements of the ceremony, the executive committee based in Nagasaki has organized about 20 sub-committees including registration desks, liturgy administrators, first aid, choirs, language help and traffic control.

Nagasaki diocesan chancellor Fr. Isao Hashimoto is overseeing the work of the committees. He said the biggest issues he faces are the over 200 buses that are expected to come and go, securing medical and nursing staff for emergency cases and protection of the artificial turf in the Nagasaki Stadium.

A survey at the end of August showed that over 200 large- and middle-sized buses are coming. Where and when to park them and release passengers are a big question. Fr. Hashimoto talked to the police to arrange for a temporary bus lane on the roads to the venue.

Since many elderly persons are expected to come to the ceremony, Fr. Hashimoto has arranged for 40 doctors, nurses, and over 100 other volunteers who will especially focus on care for the aged.

Part of the baseball stadium hired for the event is covered by artificial turf. If hairpins or needles happen to drop and remain, they might later hurt players. Fr. Hashimoto decided to place masking mats over the turf, an extra expense.

The number of expected participants has far exceeded original expectations, reaching almost 30,000. This has added to the cost of the ceremony and increased Fr. Hashimoto's concern to keep a balanced budget. However, he said, safety must come first no matter how much it costs.

"We're trying hard to avoid chaos," Fr. Hashimoto said. "We hope that everyone can sing alleluia, a hymn to God, and not a requiem, a dirge for the dead."

Fr. Hashimoto continued, "A martyr is not someone to be pitied. The martyrs followed Jesus to become perfect by sacrificing themselves. Their acts were praise not only to God, but also to humanity. I think they present a powerful message to the contemporary world."

Fr. Hashimoto added. "I wonder what will remain in everyone's heart? The beatification should not end up as an overnight fever. We should make this event another push for change from the inward-looking mentality ingrained during the long period of persecution to a Church with doors wide open to the outer world."


CHILDREN GATHER TO LEARN ABOUT MARTYRS

Approximately 750 people from 40 parishes participated in an Oct. 12 Children's Mass at the Sekiguchi Church sponsored by the Tokyo archdiocesan Church and School Committee. Since last year, the Tokorozawa Church in the Saitama diocese has also participated in the regularly-scheduled event.

"Coming to a different church and entering the Mass together is motivating for the children, as are having lunch and sleeping all together," said Tsumugi Sasabuchi, a college student shepherding more than 40 children from Tokyo's Kichijoji Church.

This year's theme was "Abba, Father" (Mark 14:36)--Praying Together with the Martyrs. Before Mass, Archbishop Takeo Okada exhibited drawings of the suffering endured by Tokyo native Mondo Hara on his path toward martyrdom.

In his sermon, Archbp. Okada talked about how, in the Old Testament Book of Hosea, God was angry with the people for their betrayal, but to the extent that God can show anger, God also shows mercy. The bishop went on to discuss the sufferings of Christ and how knowing our weakness and experiencing our sadness, he bore the weigh of our sins on the cross.

"Jesus cried 'Abba, Father' and through reliance on the Father, he entrusted his life to the Father. Knowing the life of Jesus, inheriting Jesus' Holy Spirit, the martyrs were able to offer up their lives. We too have various difficulties, but imitating the faith of Mondo Hara, believing in the love of a forgiving God, we can prove (ourselves)."

Each parish prepared spiritual bouquets, letters to the martyrs, or lanterns lit before entering the church and presented them during the Mass. Tokyo's Fr. Keizo Inagawa explained that Archbp. Okada will take the children's prayer offerings to the Nov. 24 beatification ceremony in Nagasaki, since most children from Tokyo diocese might not have the chance to attend the ceremony in person.

The children studied the martyrs before writing letters to them. Hiroko Ohta, a religious education leader at Tokyo's Kojimachi Church, said, "They wrote after reading Raise Your Sail in the Wind of Grace. The younger kids drew pictures. We read about the Uchibori brothers, and how even the child Ignatio was martyred. We have one kid who wrote 'Thank you God. I will treasure my family.'"

After Mass, everyone gathered in front of the sanctuary to hear an introduction of each parish, and all the children danced and sang together.
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