Pope Benedict XVI declared the Year of Faith, which starts on October 11, 2012 and will conclude on November 2 […]
Pope Benedict XVI declared the Year of Faith, which starts on October 11, 2012 and will conclude on November 24, 2013, the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe. One of its objectives is to reflect on how we have been realizing the teaching of the Second Vatican Council, which searched for the ways best adapted to the modern era, while maintaining the heritage of faith of the Catholic Church. The Year of Faith also aims at preparing for future development, and renewing our life of faith based on the understanding of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
- Reaffirming the purposes of the Second Vatican Council
- “The Year of Faith” and the Church in Japan
- To commit ourselves to New Evangelization
- In order to promote New Evangelization, it is important to continue our efforts to be renewed from within by the power of the Gospel and the work of the Holy Spirit while reading the Bible, praying and sharing. It is possible to enter this door of faith when the word of God is proclaimed and the heart allows itself to be shaped by transforming grace (cf. Porta Fidei, 1). The Love that God has revealed in the mystery of the death and resurrection of Christ saves and calls us to conversion of life, slowly purifying and transforming our thoughts and affections, mentality and conduct (cf. Porta Fidei, 6).
- Let us value the liturgy, especially the Mass, not as a mere obligation or a compulsory rite, but as one in which we commune with God who is always with us, and experience and share the joy of living together. That is because the Mass is the “source and summit” of Christian life.
- In order to commit ourselves to New Evangelization which the Year of Faith is aiming at, we need to read and understand the documents of the Second Vatican Council, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and the Teaching of the Catholic Church compiled by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Japan, and utilize the knowledge in our daily life (4). The fact that the Church has “catechesis” and we learn it is truly meaningful, in the sense that it can be confirmed that our faith in the modern world has been cultivated throughout the long-standing Catholic tradition, and that we are connected with other Christian communities in the world by the same faith.
- It is also recommended above all to deeply appreciate the Credo and the Lord’s Prayer, which account for a significant part of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, in the spirit of “Lex orandi, lex credendi” (The Church believes as she prays).
In order to evangelize the current Japanese social situations (the aftermath of the Great East Japan Earthquake, economic stagnation, a declining birthrate and an aging population, a frequent occurrence of suicides, etc.) and ways of thinking (materialism, principle of living only for the present, etc.), let us think what we can do, share ideas with each other, and search for measures and expressions for New Evangelization with people inside and outside of the Church, while listening to the voices of suffering people.
In the course of this Year, we bishops in Japan would like to confirm the progress of evangelization in Japan over the last 50 years, and to promote the renewal of faith presented by Vatican II in concert with the intention of our Pope (1).
The primary purpose of the Council was that each one of us Christians deeply understand and realize the blessing as children of God and be spiritually renewed all the time. Therefore, Christians have to not only enrich our religious experiences through prayers and our daily lives, but also to always think deeply of why, whom, and what we believe, as well as to constantly reflect on how we are living. We must “rediscover the content of the faith that is professed, celebrated, lived and prayed, and to reflect on the act of faith” (Pope Benedict XVI, Apostolic Letter Porta Fidei, 9).
Another purpose of the Council was “evangelization”, that is to “evangelize” people, their culture and society. Its challenges were to describe anew the essence of Christianity in a way that is suitable to people in the modern world, to reveal the image of the Church as loving, and to render pastoral services so that people today can accept the Christian teaching of salvation all the more (cf. Pope John XXIII, Address at the Opening of the Second Vatican Council).
It can be said that in the same spirit, 50 years after the Council, the Church commits itself to “New Evangelization” (theme of the Synod of Bishops this October).
This year of 2012, the Church in Japan commemorates the 150th anniversary of the canonization of the 26 Martyrs of Japan and the resumption of missionary activities. The 26 Martyrs of Japan were canonized on June 8, 1862 by Pope Pius IX. On January 12 of the same year, Yokohama Tenshudo (church) was built and missionary activities were resumed in our country.
In addition, in three years, in 2015, we will commemorate the 150th anniversary of the discovery of the Hidden Christians whose existence was revealed at Oura Catholic Church in Nagasaki on March 17, 1865.
The 26 Martyrs of Japan who were martyred 415 years ago, as well as the Hidden Christians who passed on their faith continuously from generation to generation for 250 years under the Anti-Christian Edicts, witnessed their Christian faith at the risk of their own lives. Even after missionaries had entered Japan again, the faithful were severely persecuted anew and many of them lost their lives for their faith. Although we received the blessing of the beatification of Fr. Peter Kibe and 187 Martyrs four years ago, we must not forget that we have the same blood and faith as theirs while living in the modern world. As Blessed Pope John Paul II said in 1981 during his visit to Japan, the foundation of the Church in Japan is the blood of martyrs.
On the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the resumption of missionary activities, let us reflect on the amazing history of salvation that God prepared for Japan. At the same time, let us confirm the history of the Church in Japan after the Second Vatican Council and think anew of future evangelization in this Year of Faith.
Inspired by the visit of the late Pope John Paul II to Japan, the Church in Japan first announced “Basic Policies and Priorities of the Catholic Church in Japan” in 1984 (2), and held the National Incentive Convention on Evangelization (NICE-1) in 1987 in order to invigorate and promote evangelization in Japan. This Convention determined the directions of the Church in Japan. These directions were to follow the teachings of Vatican II and the Apostolic Exhortationof Pope Paul VI, Evangelii Nuntiandi (3), to reflect on how our faith had become separate from our everyday lives and how the Church had become isolated from society, to draw our understanding of faith from our lives, and to think of the mission of the Church in the context of the social reality of Japan.
Therefore, on the occasion of the Year of Faith, the Church in Japan must confirm the message “Let us live together with joy” based on the principles of NICE-1, examine previous steps, and promote evangelization vigorously with “fresh zeal, new measures and innovative expressions”.
We Japanese bishops hope that each diocese, each parish and various Christian communities will understand enthusiastically the intention of the Year of Faith, propose meaningful plans and actions, and live this period of abundant grace in a productive way.
In the rapidly changing history of the world, 50 years after the Second Vatican Council, Japanese faithful who live Christian faith also face severe and harsh realities. However, that is all the more reason that we have important roles in proclaiming the Gospel of hope to people in the modern world. We should not regard this Year of Faith merely as one year-long blessed period. The Church must be renewed all the time.
On the occasion of the Year of Faith, we invoke God’s abundant blessings and guidance upon the progress of the Catholic Church in Japan through the intercession of Mary, Mother of God and the holy Japanese martyrs.