►(Vatican Radio) — Pope Francis has urged Christians in Japan to face current challenges bearing in mind the witness of their many martyrs.
In a letter addressed to the Bishops of Japan, on the occasion of Cardinal Fernando Filoni’s pastoral journey to the Land of the Rising Sun, the Pope held up the memory of Japan’s many martyrs and ‘hidden Christians’ whom, he said, from the 17th to the mid-19th centuries lived clandestinely so as not to have to repudiate their faith.
Cardinal Filoni, the Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, has undertaken a pastoral journey to Japan lasting from 17 to 26 September.
Japanese Christians facing current challenges
In the letter, the Pope pointed out that Japanese Christians are facing “the challenges that current times pose” and he invited them not to be “resigned,” nor to resort to “an ironic or paralyzing dialogue even although there are problematic situations that raise not a few concerns.”
Amongst the situations that arouse concern, the Pope mentioned the “high rate of divorce” in Japan, “the number of suicides, even among young people,” the phenomenon of the ‘hikikomori’ – people who choose to live completely disconnected from society, “religious and spiritual formalism, moral relativism, indifference towards religion, an obsession for work and earning”.
It is also true, the Pope continued, that a society that is a frontrunner in economic development leaves many behind: the poor, the marginalized, the excluded – not only those who are excluded in a material sense, but also those who are spiritually and morally in need.
Need for constant renewal in the Church
Within this particular context, Francis pointed out that it is necessary and urgent that the Church in Japan be constantly renewed, always bearing in mind “Jesus’ mission which is salt and light.”
The Pope concluded pointing out that the true evangelical force of the Japanese Church stems from the fact that it has been a Church of martyrs and confessors of the faith, and this “is a great asset to be safe-guarded and developed.” ◘