“Catholic Chuo Kyogikai” (The Catholic Conference of Japan) is a religious corporation established in accordance with the Religious Corporation Law of Japan.
Viewed historically, it was established in 1941 as “Nippon Tenshu Kokyo Kyodan” (The Japanese Catholic Religious Body), an organization including churches and religious orders, in accordance with the Law on Religious Bodies of 1940. Later, in 1945, with the promulgation and execution of the Religious Corporation Ordinance, it became “Tenshu Kokyo Kyoku Remmei”(The Catholic Inter-diocesan Federation), and it carried out the decisions of the Inter-diocesan Bishops’ Conference, and played roles for communication and coordination among dioceses, religious orders, and missionary orders, with the task of consultation and guidance concerning problems of evangelization. (In 1948 renamed as “Catholic Kyoku Remmei”). Then, with the promulgation and execution of the Religious Corporation Law in 1951, it became, in 1952, “Catholic Chuo Kyogikai”(The Catholic Conference of Japan), assuming a new post-war status and function. It became a religious corporation that embraces all parishes, religious houses, etc. throughout Japan.
I. The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Japan
The purposes of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Japan (hereafter: “Bishops’ Conference”), as the standing organization specified by the Canon Law of the Catholic Church (canons 447-459), is to deliberate on matters of concern for the whole Church of Japan and to encourage activities in accordance with the needs of the times. The members are: 1) the diocesan bishops, their coadjutors, and auxiliaries, 2) those honorary bishops appointed by the Holy See or the Bishops’ Conference for particular tasks.
In the Bishops’ Conference there is a President, who is in overall charge and represents the Conference, and a Vice-President to assist him. Their term is for three years, but they can be reappointed.
The Bishops’ Conference, in addition to Plenary Assemblies, has a Standing Committee, Special Committees and Sections directly under the Standing Committee (described later), an Episcopal Commission for Social Issues and its affiliated Permanent Committees and a General Secretariat.
(President) Mitsuaki Takami (Vice-President) Man’yo Maeda
(Members) The diocesan bishops, their auxiliaries, and honorary bishops
(Bishop in Charge) Yoshinao Otsuka
1. Plenary Assemblies
The Plenary Assemblies are composed of all the members mentioned above. When one of the members cannot attend a Plenary Assembly, with the permission of the President, he may appoint a substitute. Substitutes have the right to speak, but do not have the right to vote.
Representatives (President and Vice-President) of the Conference of Major Superiors of Religious and the Conference of Major Superiors of Women Religious are invited to attend the Plenary Assemblies. The representatives have the right to speak, but do not have the right to vote.
There are both Ordinary and Extraordinary Plenary Assemblies. Beginning in 2017, the Ordinary Plenary Assembly will be held in February and the Extraordinary Plenary Assembly will take place in September. In addition, Special Extraordinary Plenary Assemblies may be held from time to time.
2. The Standing Committee
The Standing Committee is the executive organ of the Bishops’ Conference. When a plenary assembly is not in session, it represents the Bishops’ Conference and handles ordinary affairs. In addition to the President and Vice-President of the Bishops’ Conference, it consists of another five members chosen at a plenary assembly. The committee’s responsibilities include the smooth running of the Bishops’ Conference, the preparation of the agenda for the plenary assemblies, the execution of the decisions of the Bishops’ Conference, the preparation of the annual budget, the presentation of the statement of accounts, direction of the General Secretariat, etc. It meets monthly except August.
In addition, the Responsible Officers of the Religious Corporation, the Catholic Conference of Japan are the members of the Standing Committee, with the chairman as the Representative Member.
(Chairman) Mitsuaki Takami
(Members) Man,yo Maeda, Masahiro Umemura, Goro Matsuura, Ryoji Miyahara, Isao Kikuchi, Sueo Hamaguchi
3. Episcopal Commission for Social Issues
The objectives of the Episcopal Commission for Social Issues are to play a prophetic role in society by carefully observing the signs of time, and to contribute to the evangelization of society by clearly demonstrating the prophetic stance against the unevangelical events both inside and outside of the Church. The Commission consists of namely, the chairman of this commission, Bp. Sueo Hamaguchi, the Chairman of the Japan Catholic Council for Justice and Peace, the President and Vice-President of the Caritas Japan, the chairman of the Committee against BURAKU Discrimination through Human-Rights Approaches, the chairman of the Catholic Commission of Japan for Migrants, Refugees and People on the Move, the President of the HIV/AIDS Desk, and the bishop in charge of the Protection of the Human Rights of Women and Children Desk.
(Chairman) Sueo Hamaguchi (Vice-Chairman) Taiji Katsuya
(Members) Goro Matsuura, Tetsuo Hiraga, Isao Kikuchi
Under the direction of the Bishop’ Conference, there are various committees and councils. The chairman of each committee is chosen at a plenary session of the Bishops’ Conference. Each committee is composed of a chairman, other members and a secretary. The General Secretariat of the Bishops’ Conference is in charge of the office work.