Why Did Cardinal Rufino J. Santos Second the Takayama Process to the Japanese Bishops?

Manila Archbishop Cardinal Santos at the Vatican
Manila Archbishop Cardinal Santos at the Vatican

In 1963, there was NO MOVEMENT in Manila for the Beatification of Dom Justo Ukon Takayama (1552-1615) at all.

In 442 years since the introduction of Christianity in 1521, the Philippines has not had a single saint canonized. San Lorenzo Ruiz (1600-1637), the Philippine Protomartyr, was canonized — i.e., enrolled in the Canon of Saints —  only in 1987. Dom Justo Ukon Takayama – a.k.a. Dom Justo Ukondono — remained in Vatican books as the only Philippine Catholic proposed for sainthood by the Philippine Church in 1630.

But before his deportation to Manila – for steadfastly refusing to abjure his Catholic Faith, Lord Takayama was a celebrated Christian samurai widely recognized as a pillar of the Church during Japan’s Christian Century (1549-1650).

As Bishops all over the world gathered in Rome for the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965), it was natural for Japanese Bishops to seek out Manila Archbishop, Cardinal Rufino J. Santos, to prod him to revive the dormant ‘Cause’ of the Confessor of Christ, Ukon Takayama.

The Bishops were surprised that Cardinal Santos readily seconded to them the promotion of Takayama’s Cause.

No minutes of the meeting between the Filipino Cardinal and the Japanese Bishops at the Pontificio Collegio Filippino on April 24, 1963 has been discovered so far; perhaps no minutes were written at all.

But in 1963, the Philippine Church did not yet have a single saint in four centuries of Catholicism, or even another candidate for sainthood – other than the Japanese nobleman, Ukon Takayama, who was originally proposed in 1630.

For the Manila Archdiocese to revive Takayama’s Cause, it would have to organize a Historical Committee to prepare the supporting documents, and promote Takayama’s Cause among Manila’s Catholics — in a Manila that Gen. Dwight Eisenhower described as “the worst destroyed city in the world during World War II” – after a visit to Manila in late 1945 after the war. The Manila Archdiocesan Archives were destroyed during the Battle for Manila (Feb. 3-March 3, 1945) – except for the portions that were transferred to the University of Santo Tomas (UST) for safe-keeping earlier. So, where could Manila historians secure their materials?

It would be better if the Japanese did the historical research themselves.

The fact that Msgr. Santos was arrested at the Arzobispado by the Kempeitai on Feb. 4, 1944 — and interrogated and tortured at Fort Santiago, Old Bilibid Prison, and then the New Bilibid Prison in Muntinglupa for a year – would not have been a factor in his decision – although Santos weighed only 63 pounds upon his liberation. Santos was one of several insular prisoners lined up for shooting when the Japanese firing squad, in the middle of their executions, got tired of too much killing and decided to abandon Muntinglupa and melt into the hills to escape the advancing Filipino guerrillas, two prisoners before it was Santos’s turn. The date of Santos’s liberation: Feb. 3, 1945 – the 330th death anniversary of Ukon Takayama.

Eighteen (18) years after his personal deliverance, Cardinal Santos would have forgiven the Japanese their wrongs, as good Christians should, but could he have forgotten the tortures, deprivation and hunger he endured for one whole year?

Considering Manila’s recent war history, could the Japanese layman, Ukon Takayama, still be proposed as the Philippines’ first saint?

It was clearly better that the Japanese Bishops promote Takayama as their own saint – in the same way that San Lorenzo de Manila (c1600-1637), who was martyred in Nagasaki, Japan was claimed by the Philippine Church as its first saint.

By Dr. Ernie A. De Pedro, Managing Trustee
Lord Takayama Jubilee Foundation


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