Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Japanese samurai on the path to sainthood

During his most recent catechesis on Baptism, Pope Francis referenced the Japanese Catholics under persecution in the 17th Century.

"There were no priests left in Japan: they were all expelled. So then, the community went underground, keeping their faith and prayers hidden.”

One of the Japanese Catholics that suffered most from outlawing Christianity was Ukon Takayama, the samurai of Christ. The Japanese Episcopal Conference has presented all the necessary documents to open the cause for his beatification.

Bishop of Nagasaki (Japan)
"He was a great witness to the Christian faith during this period of persecution in Japan, we could even say, in the history of Christianity in Japan. First, he clung to his faith without having doubts, without being swayed by any temporary wealth. He followed Jesus Christ at all times, and he lived a Christian life, according to the Gospel.”

Takayama was born in Osaka in 1552. His family converted to Catholicism and built the first church in Kyoto. But when Emperor Toyotomi Hideyosi outlawed "Western religion” and expelled the Jesuits in 1587, Takayama's family disobeyed, and remained devout to their faith. As a result, he died in 1615 in the Philippines. For Japanese bishops, the life this samurai led is an example for Catholics today.

Bishop of Nagasaki (Japan)
"They ordered him to abandon his faith, but instead Takayama Ukon abandoned his social status, his wealth, his land, his castle. He left behind all his properties, and was even expelled. Many of his values are still valid for us all today.”

Currently, about half a million Japanese identify as Catholic. That's about 0.5 percent of the population. Jesuit missionaries were the first Christians to arrive in the 16th Century to the Land of the Rising Sun. They included well-known names like St. Francis Xavier, the patron saint of missionaries.

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