For the Record: Japanese Cardinal Makes Landmark Apology For Japanese War Role

Cardinal Shirayanagi Expresses Church Apology on Takayama Anniversary in Manila

►MANILA — (UCAN, Feb. 9, 1995) — During the 1995 Memorial Mass for the Servant of God, Justus Takayama Ukon (1552-1615) at the Chapel of the University of Santo Tomas (U.S.T.) in Manila, Cardinal Peter Seiichi Shirayanagi of Tokyo — the prelate in charge of the Takayama Beatification Process — apologized for the suffering inflicted by Japan during World War II, which he described as the “darkest period” in his country´s modern history.

In his homily Feb. 1, Cardinal Shirayanagi said that Japanese Catholics, “as parties involved in the war, share in the responsibility for more than 20 million (war) victims in Asia and the Pacific.”

Japanese Bishops Ask Forgiveness ‘From God and Our Brothers’

“We, the Catholic bishops of Japan, as Japanese and members of the Catholic Church, sincerely ask forgiveness from God and from our brothers and sisters of Asia and the Pacific for the tragedy brought by Japan during World War II,” said the Cardinal, who was then president of the Catholic Bishops´ Conference of Japan.

The Mass at the University of Santo Tomas commemorated the 380th death anniversary of Lord Justus Takayama Ukon, a Japanese Catholic nobleman who died in exile in Manila on Feb. 3, 1615, as well as the 1945 Battle of Manila (Feb. 3 – March 3, 1945).

Some 100,000 civilians were killed in the month-long battle that began Feb. 3, 1945, in which U.S. forces retook the city from occupying Japanese troops.

This February 3, Manila city officials marked the 50th anniversary of the beginning of the battle with simple ceremonies at Luneta Park including wreath-laying, photo exhibits and a Mass at which Cardinal Jaime Sin of Manila presided.

At centuries-old Santo Tomas, where the Japanese interned thousands of U.S. and other Allied civilians during the war, Cardinal Shirayanagi expressed “determination to keep Japan from committing the same crime again.”

“As the Church of Japan, we renew our commitment to work toward the realization of human liberation and genuine peace in Asia and the Pacific,” he said, adding that Japanese Catholics constantly pray for victims of the war.

Apostolate Among Overseas Filipino Workers in Japan Needed

One way the Japanese Church seeks to mend the damage inflicted against Filipinos by the war, the cardinal said, is through its apostolate with some 500,000 Filipino contract workers in Japan.

Even though Christianity reached Japan in 1549, but Catholics represent a small minority in his country, “only half a million among 120 million Japanese,” Cardinal Shirayanagi noted. It arrived in the Philippines in 1521.

The faith of Japanese Catholics, however, “has been tempered by centuries of relentless persecution … the most notorious in the world,” he added.

Also in his homily, the cardinal expressed gratitude for the “spontaneous response of the Filipino people” after the devastating earthquake in Kobe. This has comforted the victims of the January tragedy, he said, particularly as “this solidarity is offered by people who do not enjoy superfluities.”

Call for “Serious Effort for New Evangelization of Asia”

Cardinal Shirayanagi, who was also in Manila during the visit of Pope John Paul II on Jan. 12-16, reminded Filipino Catholics that the joint task at hand is “a new and serious effort for the evangelization of Asia.”

He cited addiction to worldly goods as the greatest challenge to evangelization today, having produced a “new idolatry.”

The cardinal observed that in Japan, people´s highest aspirations are to have more money, a higher standard of living and more material goods. ◘

— The Union of Catholic Asian News (UCAN)

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