On Record: Pope Francis’ First Reflection on Beatification of ‘Christ’s Samurai’ in Japan

►Justus Takayama Ukon, Japanese Feudal Lord Gave Up Every Privilege and Accepted Exile to Follow the Gospel

► (By Federico Cenci / Zenit,org) — Feb. 8, 2017 – “Yesterday, in Osaka, Japan, Justo Takayama Ukon, loyal Japanese layman, who was martyred in Manila in 1615 was beatified.”

Pope Francis remembered during his weekly General Audience in the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall this morning, noting: “Rather than compromise, he renounced honors and prosperity and accepted humiliation and exile.

“He remained faithful to Christ and to the Gospel; for this, he is a wonderful example of strength in the faith and dedication in charity,” Francis said.

Justus Takayama Uko, a samurai at the service of Christ, was persecuted for following the Gospel in 16th century Japan. Married and father of five children, he became a Christian at 12 years of age, when his father converted — taking the name Darius and giving his son the name Justus — thanks to the preaching of the Jesuit Saint Francis Xavier.

There is a saying in Japan that recurs every year, on the occasion of the launching of the atomic bomb: “Hiroshima screams, Nagasaki prays – protests in the first city hit by U.S. aviation, composed liturgies in the second.

This is a fact that attests to the presence in the country of the Rising Sun of a “small” Christian “flock,” which for centuries was able to endure persecutions, offering a testimony dedicated to dignified silence.

This seraphic attitude is summarized in the expression of the statue at Osaka representing Ukon – a warrior with a proud look and with hair gathered behind his head and in his hands, a sword surmounted by a crucifix.

In order not to abjure his Christian faith, years later Ukon was willing to lose all the recognition he had obtained and inherited from his family and to die in exile. The Takayama Tomoteru dynasty was very powerful — lords of the Sawa castle and of the whole region of Takasuki.

They were individuals rich in money and warrior virtues. Ukon, like all his relatives, practiced bushido, the “life of the sword,” which combines military discipline and very rigid moral norms. He was also a daimyo of imperial appointment, hence he had the right to contract a private army.

The Japan in which he lived (about the year 1580) was led by the shogun (dictator) Toyotomi Hideyoshi, known also as the “second unifier of the homeland.” The first Christian preachers also disembarked at that time, Jesuits led by Saint Francis Xavier.

They succeeded in bringing many people to Christ, primarily powerful samurai families, especially in the Nagasaki area. In 1587, however, Hideyoshi decided to limit what was described as the “religion of the West.”

Torture, extortions, abjurations and violence pushed the majority of the Christian neophytes to abandon the faith. Ukon and his father, however, resisted. Willing to face death and humiliation but not to renounce Christianity, they remitted terrains and military honors in the hands of the emperor.

They faced a life of hardship until 1614, when the emperor decided to ban Christianity altogether. At that point, Ukon chose life in exile and, together with 300 other Christians, went to Manila. In the Philippines, he was supported by local Catholics, European Jesuits and Spain, the colonial power. He died at Manila just 44 days after his arrival, on February 3, 1615. His Catholic funeral was decorated with the highest military honors.

In Japan, his homeland, Ukon also left a trace that endures up to today. Before going into exile, he contributed to the foundation of several seminaries in the Nagasaki area, small communities that had the task to keep the Christian flame lighted in the course of the centuries. Nagasaki is, still today, the area in which the greatest number of followers of Christ is concentrated.

The memory of Justus Takayama Ukon always remained alive in them. Already in the 17th century, thanks to the clergy of Manila, an attempt was made to beatify “Christ’s samurai.” However, because of the isolationist policy of the Tokugawa shogunate, it was impossible to enter into possession of the necessary documents for the canonical investigation. There was a second attempt in 1965, frustrated, however, by some errors of form in the preparation of the cause.

Finally, yesterday’s, Justus’ beatification was able to become a reality. Cardinal Angelo Amato, Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, celebrated the Mass at Osaka. AsiaNews reported that he described the new Blessed as “an extraordinary witness of the Christian faith in difficult times of opposition and persecution.”

Justus is the first individual to receive the honors of the altar in the history of Japanese Catholicism. Japan has in fact 42 Saints and 393 Blesseds, all martyrs of the Edo period (1603-1867) and all celebrated as a group.

These martyrs bless the Japanese Church with their “splendid witness,” said Cardinal Amato. A splendor that shines in the honor of Justus Takayama Ukon, “Christ’s samurai.”

[Contributed to by Deborah Castellano Lubov]

 

 

Pope Francis’ Address to Japan’s Bishops, during his Apostolic Journey to Japan (Nov. 23-26, 2019)

Pope Francis’ Address to Japan’s Bishops, during his Apostolic Journey to Japan (Nov. 23-26, 2019)

Dear Brothers,

I am very grateful for the gift of visiting Japan and for the welcome you have given me. I especially thank Archbishop Takami for his words on behalf of the entire Catholic community in this country. Here in your presence, in this first official meeting, I want to greet all the members of your communities: laypeople, catechists, priests, religious, consecrated persons, seminarians. I also want to extend my embrace and prayers to all the Japanese people at this time marked by the enthronement of the new Emperor and the beginning of the Reiwa era.

I don’t know if you are aware of this, but ever since I was young I have felt a fondness and affection for these lands. Many years have passed since that missionary impulse, whose realization has been long in coming. Today the Lord gives me the opportunity to come among you as a missionary pilgrim in the footsteps of great witnesses to the faith. Four hundred and seventy years have passed since the arrival of Saint Francis Xavier in Japan, which marked the beginning of the spread of Christianity in this land. In his memory, I want to join you in thanking the Lord for all those who, over the centuries, have dedicated themselves to implanting the Gospel and serving the Japanese people with great tenderness and love. This dedication has given the Japanese Church a unique face. I think of the martyrs 💥Saint Paul MIKI and his companions, and of 💥Blessed Justo Ukon TAKAYAMA, who in the midst of many trials bore witness up to his death. Such self-sacrifice for the sake of keeping the faith alive amid persecution helped the small Christian community to develop, grow strong and bear fruit. We can also think of those “hidden Christians” of the Nagasaki region, who kept the faith for generations, thanks to baptism, prayer, and catechesis. Authentic domestic Churches that shone forth in this land, perhaps without even realizing it, as reflections of the Holy Family of Nazareth.

The path taken by the Lord shows us how his presence “plays out” in the daily life of his faithful people, who seek ways to keep his memory alive. His is a silent presence, a living memory that makes us realize that wherever two or more are gathered in his name, he is there, with the strength and tenderness of his Spirit (cf. Mt 18:20). The DNA of your communities is marked by this witness, an antidote against despair, that points out the path they must follow. You are a living Church that has been preserved by invoking the Lord’s name and contemplating how he guided you through the midst of persecution.

Faithful sowing, the witness of martyrs and patient expectation of the fruits that the Lord gives in his time, have characterized your apostolic approach to Japanese culture. As a result, over the years you have developed a form of ecclesial presence that is for the most part much appreciated by Japanese society, thanks to your many contributions to the common good. This important chapter in the history of your country and of the universal Church has now been recognized with the designation of the churches and villages of Nagasaki and Amakusa as World Cultural Heritage sites. But above all, as living memorials of the soul of your communities, a fruitful hope for every form of evangelization.

The motto of my Apostolic Journey is “Protect All Life”. This could well symbolize our own ministry as bishops. A bishop is called by the Lord from among his people and then given back to them as a pastor called to protect all life. This determines in great measure what our aims and goals should be.

The mission in these lands was marked by a powerful search for inculturation and dialogue, which allowed the formation of new models, independent of those developed in Europe. We know that, from the beginning, literature, theatre, music and various types of instruments were employed, for the most part in the Japanese language. This is a sign of the love that those first missionaries felt for these lands. Protecting all life means, first of all, having a contemplative gaze capable of loving the life of the entire people entrusted to you, and recognizing it, above all, as the Lord’s gift. “Only that which is loved can be saved. Only that which is embraced can be transformed” (Address at the Vigil with Young People, Panama, 26 January 2019). An incarnational principle that can help us view each life as a gratuitous gift, apart from other valid yet secondary considerations. Protecting all life and proclaiming the Gospel are not separate or opposed; rather each appeals to, and requires, the other. Both entail being careful and vigilant about anything that could hinder, in these lands, the integral development of the people entrusted to the light of the Gospel of Jesus.

We know that the Church in Japan is small and Catholics are in a minority, but this must not diminish your commitment to evangelization. In your particular situation, the strongest and clearest word you can speak is that of a humble, daily witness and openness to dialogue with other religious traditions. The hospitality and care you show to the many foreign workers who represent more than half of Japan’s Catholics, not only serve as a witness to the Gospel within Japanese society but also attest to the universality of the Church. This demonstrates that our union with Christ is stronger than any other bond or badge of identity, and can enter into and become part of every situation.

A Church of witness can speak with greater freedom, especially when addressing pressing issues of peace and justice in our world. I will soon visit Nagasaki and Hiroshima, where I will offer prayers for the victims of the catastrophic bombing of these two cities, and echo your own prophetic calls for nuclear disarmament. I wish to meet those who still bear the wounds of this tragic episode in human history, as well as the victims of the triple disaster. Their continued sufferings are an eloquent reminder of our human and Christian duty to assist those who are troubled in body and spirit and to offer to all the Gospel message of hope, healing, and reconciliation. Evil has no preferences; it does not care about people’s background or identity. It simply bursts in with its destructive force, as was the case recently with the devastating typhoon that caused so many casualties and material damage. Let us entrust to the Lord’s mercy those who have died, their families and all who have lost their homes and material possessions. May we never be afraid to pursue, here and throughout the world, a mission capable of speaking out and defending all life as a precious gift from the Lord.

For this reason, I encourage your efforts to ensure that the Catholic community in Japan offers a clear witness to the Gospel in the midst of the larger society. The Church’s highly respected educational apostolate represents a great resource for evangelization and engagement with larger intellectual and cultural currents; the quality of its contribution will naturally depend on the fostering of its distinctively Catholic identity and mission.

All of us are aware of the grave problems affecting people in your communities whose lives are marked, for various reasons, by loneliness, despair, and isolation. The increase in the rates of suicide in your cities, as well as bullying (ijime) and various kinds of neediness, are creating new forms of alienation and spiritual disorientation. Since these affect the young in particular, I ask you to pay special attention to them and their needs. Try to create spaces in which the culture of efficiency, performance and success can become open to a culture of generous and selfless love, capable of offering to everyone, and not only to those who have “made it”, the possibility of a happy and successful life. With their zeal, ideas, and energy, young people – when well-formed and accompanied – can be a deep source of hope to their contemporaries and bear vital witness to Christian charity. A creative, inculturated and imaginative quest to live the Gospel message can have a powerful effect on so many lives thirsting for compassion.

I recognize that the harvest is great and the laborers are few, so I encourage you to seek out and develop a mission capable of involving families and of promoting a formation that can reach people where they are, always taking into account the specifics of each situation. The starting point for every apostolate is the concrete place in which people find themselves, with their daily routines and occupations. It is there that we must reach the souls of our cities, workplaces, and universities, in order to accompany the faithful entrusted to us with the Gospel of compassion and mercy.

I thank you once more for the opportunity you have offered me to visit your local Churches and to celebrate together with them. Peter wants to confirm you in faith, but he also comes to walk in, and be renewed by, the footsteps of so many martyrs and witnesses to the faith. Please pray that the Lord may grant me this grace.

I ask the Lord to bless you and, with you, your communities.#

~ POPE FRANCIS, Apostolic Nunciature, Tokyo, November 23, 2019
[01856-EN.01] [Original text: Spanish] © Libreria Editrice Vatican

‘Prayer Warriors of Blessed Takayama’ Are Spread Out in All Continents. Every Devotee Works ‘in the Trenches’

►Connected only through Social Media, there’s no time for nine-day novenas. No single parish church yet dedicated to Blessed Takayama. No place for a common assembly. How do we connect?

For now, there’s only the annual Memorial Mass on February 3 — celebrated in Japan, the Philippines and four other countries.

What is our individual commitment to the Blessed Justo Takayama Ukon Canonization Movement?

Core Mission:

⛨ To strengthen among members of the Blessed Justo Takayama Ukon Canonization Movement the practice of Christian life, centered on the Holy Eucharist, in absolute fidelity to the Supreme Pontiff and according to the teachings of the Church, observing as its foundation the principles of charity, following the example of the “Samurai of Christ,” Justus Ukon Takayama (1552 Osaka-1615 Manila), a singular promoter of God’s Kingdom, and an undaunted witness to the Catholic Faith.

⛨ To sustain and aid the charitable, cultural and social works and institutions of the Catholic Church – wherever we, as Missionary Disciples, are sent.

⛨ To support the preservation and propagation of the Faith in all lands, and promote interest in this work not only among Catholics scattered throughout the world, who are united in charity by the symbol of the Cross, but also among all other Christians.

⛨ To uphold the rights of the Catholic Church everywhere.

Basic Code of Prayer Warriors

PRAYER — We have only ONE basic prayer: The “Our Father,” prayed as we start the day, after which we pray ONE “Hail Mary” as a paean to Jesus’ mother. Then the Doxology or “Glory Be.” You can pray alone, but if you can manage it, pray with one or two Others. “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” (Matthew 18:20).

OBLIGATION — Remember to do a random act of kindness EVERY DAY to neighbors — and others in need. (Ephesians 4:32, John 13:35, Hebrews 13:16).

OFFERING — Give of your substance to the Blessed Justo Takayama Ukon Canonization Movement – “quae cuiusque” — each according to his means. (Proverbs 3:9-10; 2 Corinthians 9:7).◘

Dr. Ernesto A. de Pedro
Takayama Trustee

Invoking the Saints to Protect Bishops Accused of Plotting to Overthrow Duterte Government

“Let our prayers be the best expression of our solidarity and fraternal support for them.”

►Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle has issued a prayer to be said by the clergy and the faithful at all Sunday Masses.

“His Eminence (Cardinal Tagle) invites us to be aware and discerning of the many disturbing issues in our society today. We are invited to respond in faith and hope through our common prayer,” according to Circular 2019-34 on the Prayer for the Nation signed by Fr. Reginald Malicdem, Chancellor of the Archdiocese.

The prayer, written in English and Tagalog, will be prayed at all Sunday Masses, including the evening masses of Saturday, for the whole month beginning August 4.

The circular dated August 1, is addressed to all clergy and superiors of religious men and women in the archdiocese.#

►The head of the Archdiocese of Manila asked them to pray for the members of the Catholic Church particularly those who are victims of false accusations.“Our dear Archbishop, Cardinal Luis Antonio G. Tagle, is asking all of us, priests, religious men and women, and lay faithful in the Archdiocese of Manila, to offer our Masses and prayer for all our bishops and priests, especially those who suffer because of persecutions and false accusations,” the directive said.

“Let our prayers be the best expression of our solidarity and fraternal support for them,” it added.#

►PRAYER FOR THE NATION

>>>Almighty and merciful God
You have brought us together in the name of your Son Jesus.
We beg for your mercy and grace in our time of need.
Open our eyes to see the evil that we have done.
Forgive us for failing to do what is good and just.
Touch our hearts and bring us back to You.
We pray for an end to the violence perpetrated by harsh words, malicious propaganda, deadly weapons, or cold indifference.
May our homes, our nation, and our world become havens of Your peace.
Grant us the grace to see every human being as a child of God, regardless of race, language, or culture, even drug addicts, criminals, and hardened sinners.
Give us the strength to teach our children and youth how to resolve differences non-violently and respectfully.
May elders become models of decent and honorable behavior.
We entrust to your mercy those who hate the Church and spread prejudice against our Catholic faith.
Illumine their minds with the light of your truth.
Touch their hearts with your love.
Inspire those in public office to uphold, preserve, promote, and defend the dignity of every human being and acknowledge you, our God, as the Source and Lord of all life.
Touch the hearts of those who oppress others and those who take the law in their own hands.
Touch the consciences of the perpetrators of heinous crimes, violence, senseless, and indiscriminate killings.
Move them to abandon their pride and their instruments of destruction.
We also remember the police and first responders who risk their lives daily to ensure our safety.
May they also be instruments of fair and just law enforcement that guarantees the dignity of persons and promotes truth, peace, and wellbeing in society.
We lift up to you our bishops, priests, consecrated persons, and lay faithful who suffer from misunderstanding, false accusations, and persecution on account of their faith and their promotion of justice.
Grant them holy joy that will see them through the dark nights of suffering.
Welcome to your eternal feast in heaven the people who died in senseless brutal organized killings, including priests who have lost their lives in the pursuit of truth and justice.

With St. Paul, we say:
“We are afflicted in every way, but not constrained; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our body.” (2 Corinthians 4:8-10).

Since you, O God, are with us, nothing that has happened, nothing still to come, can rob us of our hope in Christ.
In your enduring love we trust.
You alone can heal our broken hearts.
You alone can wipe away the tears that well up inside us.
You alone can give us peace.
You alone can strengthen us to persevere.
Assure those who are discouraged that with you nothing is impossible.
Filled and invigorated by the Holy Spirit, may our love for one another be deepened.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.
Amen.#

►Mary, Mother of Hope, pray for us.
◘ St. Michael the Archangel, pray for us.
◘ St. John Marie Vianney, pray for us.
◘ San Lorenzo Ruiz, pray for us.
◘ San Pedro Calungsod, pray for us.
◘ Blessed José María de Manila, pray for us.
◘ Blessed Justo Takayama Ukon, pray for us.#

“Blessed Justo Takayama Ukon, pray for us.” – The “Samurai of Christ,” Justo Ukon Takayama, the Japan-born Manila Catholic who was “martyred” in Manila in 1615, brings up the rear in the litany of Saints invoked — to protect the Philippines.#

Dr. Ernesto A. de Pedro
Takayama Trustee

 

Pope Francis – and the ‘Kirishitan Samurai,’ Justo Ukon Takayama


►On six occasions, Pope Francis has shown special regard for Blessed Justo Ukon Takayama (1552 Osaka-1615 Manila; beatified 2017).#

►#1 – ‘BUILD ON LEGACY OF MARTYRS’ — On March 20, 2015 — Pope Francis, in his message to Japanese Bishops during their “ad Limina” visit to the Vatican, urged them to build on the legacy of their martyrs – numbering 42 Saints and 393 Blessed. Dom Justo Ukon Takayama, a pillar of the early Jesuit missions in Japan was, at this time, a “Servant of God” — the first rung in the ladder to sainthood.#

►#2 — ‘DECREE OF MARTYRDOM’ — On Jan 21, 2016 – Pope Francis issued a “Decree of Martyrdom,” paving the way for Takayama’s immediate beatification.

►#3 — ‘WONDERFUL EXAMPLE OF STRENGTH IN THE FAITH’ — On Feb. 8, 2017 (the day AFTER the beatification rites of Blessed Takayama in Osaka), Pope Francis reflected on Ukon during his weekly General Audience in the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall: “Rather than compromise, Ukon renounced honors and prosperity and accepted humiliation and exile. He remained faithful to Christ and to the Gospel; for this, he is a wonderful example of strength in the faith and dedication in charity.”#

►#4 — ‘CHOOSING THE PATH OF EXILE’ — On Sept. 14, 2017 – Pope Francis sent a message to Japanese Bishops through Cardinal Fernando Filoni, Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples: “Whenever I think of the Church in Japan, my thoughts return to the witness of the many martyrs who have offered their lives for the faith. They always have a special place in my heart: I think of … Blessed Justus Takayama Ukon, who … preferred poverty and the path of exile rather than recanting the name of Jesus.”#

►#5 — ‘COMMENDING YOU TO BLESSED TAKAYAMA’ — On Dec. 8, 2018, Pope Francis appointed Osaka Cardinal Thomas Aquinas Manyo Maeda as his Papal Legate to the 60th Anniversary of the postwar reconstruction of the Manila Cathedral-Basilica: “And indeed desiring for you a heavenly companion in Manila, we … commend you to Blessed Justo Takayama Ukon, who is recently raised to the glory of the altars in Osaka.”#

►#6 — ‘PRAYER WARRIORS OF BLESSED TAKAYAMA’ — On July 25, 2019, Pope Francis imparts his Apostolic Blessing to the Prayer Warriors of Blessed Takayama. “With the assurance of his prayers, the Holy Father willingly imparts his Apostolic Blessing to you and all the Prayer Warriors of Blessed Takayama as a pledge of peace and joy in the Lord.”#

Dr. Ernesto A. de Pedro
Takayama Trustee

 

 

Japan Is a Nation Rich in Saints and Blessed

The Martyr Church of Japan

►As of 2019, Japan has 42 Japanese Saints and 394 “Beati” (Blessed). All these Catholics venerated in churches around the world, were group martyrs who — except one — were processed in only four batches:

The 26 Martyrs of Nagasaki (martyred 1597; beatified 1627; canonized 1862). This first group includes St. Pedro Bautista (1542-1597), former Superior of all Franciscans in the Philippines and founder of the Franciscan Monastery at San Francisco del Monte, Manila — before he was sent to Japan in May 1593 as personal envoy of Governor-General Gomez Perez Dasmariñas to Hideyoshi. After his diplomatic chores were done, Bautista was allowed to stay on to establish a Franciscan mission.

205 Martyrs of Japan (1598-1632) – (beatified 1867). This was the largest group beatification ceremony in church history.

Sixteen Martyrs of Japan (1633-1637) — (beatified, 1981; canonized 1987).

The 188 Japanese Martyrs (1603-1639) — (beatified in Nagasaki in November 2008).

Alone among them, Blessed Takayama was individually promoted and studied at the Congregation for the Causes of Saints (CCS). Originally promoted as a Confessor – necessitating a study of his entire life and heroic virtues since his Baptism on June 1, 1563 — he was later promoted as a Martyr – when Pope Francis issued a Decree of Martyrdom on Jan. 21, 2016, recognizing Takayama as “a layperson … from Japan [who] died from the hatred of the Faith on Feb. 3, 1615 in Manila, Philippines.”

Cardinal Angelo Amato, Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, described the new Blessed as “an extraordinary witness of the Christian faith in difficult times of opposition and persecution.”

As lay promoters of the Canonization Cause of Blessed Takayama, we implore your parishioners to devote a prayer session to study Takayama’s heroic virtues. Pray for him to intercede with God – in the hope God would favor him with his grace.

Blessed Takayama is just ONE miracle away from Canonization.

Despite the shedding of so much martyrs’ blood, Japan remains 99.3% Shinto-Buddhist today – (only ONE in 330 Japanese is Catholic!) — as Pope Francis will find out there are only 509,000 Japanese Catholics when he visits Japan in mid-November, 2019.

The Philippines – Third Largest Catholic Nation in the World

The Philippines, where over 86 per cent of its 102.25 M population profess to be Catholics, has a total of TWO Filipino Saints, THREE Blessed, SIX Venerables, and SIXTEEN (16) Servants of God — over five centuries of Christianity.

With the celebration of the 500th anniversary of Christianity in the Philippines in 2021, focus is intensifying on the many saintly people who have energized the Philippine Church in the past five centuries.#

Dr. Ernesto A. De Pedro
Takayama Trustee

 

Homily on the Blessing of Statue of Blessed Justo Ukon Takayama at Sts. Peter & Paul Church, Wilmington, CA, June 29, 2019

Wilmington, CA Catholic Church
Saints Peter and Paul Catholic Church (SPPC) in WilmingtonCalifornia, USA

►The SPPC Pastor, Rev. Fr. Hildebrand Garceau, O.Praem. notes: “Today, we honor Justo Ukon Takayama as recently beatified, a saint who joins the two countries of Japan and the Philippines in a bond of Christian peace.”

Happy feast day!

Welcome to our honored and special guests from the Japanese Catholic community and the Filipino community.

◘ St. Peter’s imprisonment guarded by 16 soldiers, but prayers by the Church brought 1 Angel, who set him free.

◘ St. Paul’s last letter to Timothy,

>>>Now an old man and living in Rome

>>>St. Peter also in Rome

>>>Both caring for the Christian community there, having suffered many times for Christ with imprisonments and beatings.

As St. Peter had professed to Jesus years before “You are the Christ the Son of the living God”, so now after years of preaching, working miracles, baptizing, and caring for the Christian communities, they have been putting into practice the profession of faith.

III. Tradition tells us that there in Rome, about the year 67AD both died as martyrs, witnesses to their faith in the Lord Jesus. St. Peter’s Basilica is built over St. Peter’s tomb. His successor, Pope Francis, lives in a house nearby. St. Paul died just outside the city near the monastery of Tre Fontane.

►We wear red today because both of these Princes of Apostles died as martyrs. The Church has a long tradition of venerating men and women who died for the faith. For 300 years after Jesus’ Resurrection, the Church was persecuted throughout the Mediterranean area, the Roman Empire.

In the following centuries, other persecutions occurred in different countries throughout the world, with many giving their lives in witness to their faith in Christ. England had many martyrs in the 16th century, France in the 18th century, Uganda in the 19th century, Russia, China, Spain and Mexico in the 20th. All gave up their lives rather than give up their faith. As a result, in many cases, the Church began to flourish in these areas after these periods of persecution. This fulfills a famous saying of the Church Father Tertullian, “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of Christians.”

St. Francis Xavier, the great Jesuit missionary brought the faith to Japan in the 1550’s and converted many people. However, in later years the local authorities sought to wipe out the Catholic faith by stripping Catholics of their property and making them live in poverty. In 1597, the first Japanese died for the faith. More persecutions followed, but the faith continued to grow in Japan.

Fr. Hildebrand Garceau, SPPC. Wilmington, CA
A Japanese congregation from “St. Francis Xavier Chapel – Maryknoll Japanese Catholic Center” (established on Dec. 25, 1912), pastored by Fr. Doan Hoang (a Japanese-speaking Vietnamese-American Jesuit) joined the SPPC parishioners. Japanese nuns of Poor Clare Missionary Sisters based in Los Angeles also attended.

Among the early converts to Catholicism in Japan was Justo Ukon Takayama (高山右近). He was baptized with the other members of his family in 1563. His family belonged to the nobility, and when he was 21 he was made feudal governor of Takatsuki. He was a great Samurai warrior, an able governor, and a saintly Christian. Like the holy Apostles, Justo proclaimed the faith of Christ, especially among Japanese Buddhists, and he made many converts, including other noble persons. When he went out to battle, he rode under the sign of the Cross.

During his lifetime in Japan, three separate persecutions broke out against Christians. Justo was fortunate to escape with his life and he continued to make converts by his winning personality and fervor for the faith. Pope Sixtus V heard of Justo’s evangelical missionary work and sent him a letter with the Apostolic blessing in 1590.

Finally, in the third persecution, which broke out in 1614, Justo was given the ultimatum: renounce his Catholic faith or be deported. He fled to Manila late that same year and died of his mistreatment early in 1615 in Manila. As Pope Francis described Ukon in the Decree of Martyrdom he issued Jan. 21, 2016: Justo Ukon Takayama was a “layperson … from Japan [who] died from the hatred of the Faith on Feb. 3, 1615 in Manila, Philippines.”

Sts. Peter & Paul Church Blessing of Takayama Statue
The SPPC Filipino Choir sang the Jesuit Music Ministry’s new Takayama song, “Mabunying Samurai” (Happy Warrior) — the first time in church.

Today, we honor him as recently beatified, a saint who joins the two countries of Japan and the Philippines in a bond of Christian peace.

Let us pray for the continued growth of our Catholic faith both here and among our countrymen of the Far East.#

Tokyo Cathedral Installs Altar-Statue of Blessed Takayama

►An altar-statue of the celebrated “Samurai of Christ,” Justo Ukon Takayama (1552-1615, beatified 2017) was installed on Sunday, May 12, 2019, at St. Mary’s Cathedral, Tokyo by Archbishop Tarcisius Isao Kikuchi, SVD. (*Credit for photos:  Maria KasuyaJan Michael AcaylarPuchie Gan, Chino Manding Caddarao, Atsushi  Wakamatsu and Carmen Agnes Canafranca Wakamatsu).
St. Mary's Cathedral, Tokyop Japan
St. Mary’s Cathedral, Tokyo, Japan

►Lord Justo Ukon Takayama (高山右近) — then already in domestic exile in Kanazawa, capital of Ishikawa Prefecture, on Japan’s central Honshu Island — was deported by the Tokugawa Shogunate to the Philippines in 1614 for refusing to abjure his Catholic faith. Ukon arrived with his wife, Doña Justa Kuroda Takayama, his married daughter Lucia Yokoyama, and five grandsons, 8 to 16  (all surnamed Takayama) with the first boatload of 350 “refugees and migrants” deported from Japan, docking in Manila on Sunday, Dec. 21, 1614 — to a warm welcome from Manilans.

Only 44 days after his arrival in Manila, Takayama died – “martyred” in the reckoning of the Church – on Feb. 3, 1615.

He was the first Manila Catholic to be proposed for sainthood by the Manila Archdiocese in 1630. He was declared “Servant of God” in 1994. And was beatified by authority of Pope Francis in 2017.

►Blessed Takayama is the Philippine Church’s THIRD “Beatus” (Blessed) — and Japan’s 436th Martyr.

Though there are “over a hundred” different artistic representations of him (*check out Google/Images under “Takayama Ukon”), the Takayama image presented to the Tokyo Cathedral was based on the Takayama statue that was erected as the centerpiece of the Philippines-Japan Friendship Park in Plaza Dilao, Manila in 1977. The version carved by the renowned Paete artist, Paloy Cagayat, shows the “Samurai of Christ,” Ukon Takayama. in a pose associated with St. Ignatius (1491- 1556) — offering his sword in the service of Christ.

►The altar-statue for Tokyo Cathedral, produced by the Prayer Warriors of Blessed Takayama, was sponsored by “The Gathering of Filipino Groups and Communities” (GFGC) in the Archdiocese of Tokyo, chaired by Dr. Maria Carmelita Kasuya, Research Associate Professor at the University of Tokyo since 2001.

►It is the apostolate of the Prayer Warriors of Blessed Takayama in Manila to spread to Catholic parishes worldwide the Takayama statues and figurines (*shown being presented to Pope Francis by Fr. Renzo de Luca, SJ, Father Provincial of the Jesuits in Japan) – as an aid to evoking the memory of this Catholic of heroic virtue, who died a martyr in Manila – the first Manila Catholic to be proposed for sainthood in the Philippine Church.

Welcome to St. Mary’s Cathedral

►Tokyo Archbishop Tarcisius Isao Kikuchi, SVD, welcomed parishioners and their guests to the Tokyo Cathedral.

Ushered in by children with flowers and candles

►Children with flowers and candles ushered the procession of four Filipino parishioners who carried the Takayama statue into the Tokyo Cathedral.

Processional

Four Filipinos were chosen to escort the Takayama altar-statue to the High Altar. Left: Jan Michael Acaylar, Right: Leroy Llorente. Back Left: Manny Rosario, Right: Chino Manding Caddarao.

Tokyo Cathedral

Tokyo Cathedral

On Vocation Sunday

►As May 12, 2019 was Vocation Sunday, there was a large complement of priests during the Takayama installation.

Takayama Ukon

Takayama Hymn ‘To the End’ Was Sung

►The words and music of the Takayama Ukon hymn were written  by Jay Gomez (of the Jesuit Ministry of Music, Manila)

“How do we make the choice
As you have made to hear His voice?
What did you see? What did you know?
All that you had, for Him, you let go.

Takayama Ukon, we will follow your lead.
Together as one, His call, we shall heed.
The life that you lived will show us the way.
Walk us through this journey.
We will not astray.

You honored and loved the Father
In the midst of martial power.
You stood by the church, held on to His word,
Withstanding the draw of this blinding world

Takayama Ukon, your faith is esteemed
A reminder that we, through CHRIST, are redeemed.
Takayama Ukon, you did not bend.
While there’s fear and doubt in others,
You believed in Him to the end.”

Bridge:

Isa kang sorpresa, mula bansang Hapon.
Sana’y nagkapiling ng mas mahabang panahon.
Di man nagtagal ang naging samahan
Minahal ka ng bayan, ang Perlas Ng Silangan!#

“To the End Hymn”was sung by 💥Soloist Redd Sumpaico (from Himig Koenji), with 💥Puchie Velez on the piano.

Prayer-Card(‘Estampitas’) in Japanese and English

►The Takayama Intercessory Prayer, composed by Fr. Johannes Laures, SJ in the 1940s — was printed with an image painted by the late Noel Velez, a Takayama devotee who painted a number of Takayama images — and distributed to the congregation.

Memento Photos

Takayama

Tokyo Cathedral

Takayama

Takayama

Takayama
The Japanese journalist, Atsushi Wakamatsu (at right), has followed the trail of Dom Justo Ukon Takayama since 1986. As Manila bureau chief of a Japanese newspaper, he heard about a research project to document the historical Takayama. He funded the round-trip ticket of Dr. Ernesto A. de Pedro to the Vatican Archives. Was Takayama a myth? Was Ukon a composite of many Japanese Christians? The answer: In 1630, the Vatican received a petition from the Manila Archdiocese for Takayama’s sainthood.

Concelebrated Mass, Presided by Archbishop Kikuchi

►The Filipino community in Tokyo attended the installation.

Homily of Archbishop Tarcisio Isao Kikuchi, SVD

►As we begin today’s Mass for Vocation Sunday, we will first have the blessing of the statue of Blessed Justo Takayama Ukon which will be brought to the altar with a procession by our brothers and sisters from the Philippines. Later, this statue of the blessed martyr will be placed at the rear portion of this Cathedral.

As you know, Takayama Ukon was a warlord (daimyo) who refused to abandon his religion even though the repression of Christianity became increasingly severe, leading him to give up so much.

After Toyotomi Hideyoshi issued an edict expelling the foreign missionaries, Ukon chose to give up all his possessions in exchange for protecting his faith. In 1614, during the time of Tokugawa Ieyasu, he was expelled to Manila, and on the following year, died there on the 3rd of February 1615. Ukon had to let go of everything, including leaving his own motherland, only to keep the faith, thus, the Church considers him a martyr, and beatified him in 2017.

There is a reason why our brothers and sisters from the Philippines brought this statue here. Blessed Takayama Ukon, who died in Manila, is venerated even in the Philippines, and a statue of him is also erected in Manila. The Filipinos have become a moving force in the Cause for the beatification and canonization of Takayama Ukon — researching, praying together for his canonization, and collecting donations from different church communities.

Today, we receive this statue as a gift, but it would not have been possible for this statue to be shipped and brought into this cathedral without the great efforts of our Filipino communities in the Archdiocese of Tokyo. I would like to express my gratitude to all of you, especially for shouldering all the expenses.

I believe it is fitting that Blessed Takayama Ukon is honored in this Mass for Vocation Sunday. A Japanese who has been beatified, had crossed borders, transcended cultures, and to date is venerated in the Philippines, tells a lot about the universality of the Church.

With the Philippine Church accepting Takayama Ukon as a brother of the same Christian faith during his last days and until now honors his life with respect, further strengthens the ties between the Japanese church and the Philippine church.

At the same time, as we support each other, we affirm each other in the life of faith.

It also teaches us clearly that our faith has universal value transcending cultures and nationalities.

For this year’s World Day of Vocations, Pope Francis released a message entitled “The Courage to Take a Risk for God’s Promise.” The Pope pointed out that responding to the call of Jesus is a big challenge in life as he states, “Every vocation is a summons not to stand on the shore, nets in hand, but to follow Jesus on the path he has marked out for us, for our own happiness and for the good of those around us.”

Responding to Jesus’ call does not mean that you stay in a safe place and do nothing. It is not an easy task but it involves putting ourselves on the line and continue facing the challenge with great courage. The Pope continues to say that, “embracing this promise naturally demands the courage to risk making a decision… Responding to the Lord’s call involves putting ourselves on the line and facing a great challenge with our whole body and spirit.”

The very life of Takayama Ukon is truly about “putting oneself on the line and confronting great challenges with courage.” Even if he loses his position and fame in the society at that time, his attitude to keep faith is firm and strong. He could have made a compromise somewhere, and he would have walked his life without much trouble. However, Takayama Ukon did not make that choice. I think that the life of Takayama Ukon was a life that had the courage to continue facing challenges and holding on to his decision to respond to the call of the Lord.

Just as the Pope himself mentioned in his message, when we speak of vocations today, it is not limited only with priests and religious. Every Christian has his own vocation. Therefore facing challenges with courage is not only for special persons with specific roles, but rather a necessity for all Christians. The Pope writes: “I think of the decision to marry in Christ and to form a family, as well as all those other vocations associated with work and professional life, with the commitment to charity and solidarity, with social and political responsibilities, and so forth. These vocations make us bearers of a promise of goodness, love and justice.”

Today is Good Shepherd Sunday and the gospel states, “My sheep hear my voice.” In order for us to continue with courage the path we have chosen, we need a strong, loving Shepherd. To follow that Good Shepherd, we must know His voice. Do we really know the voice of the Good Shepherd? Do we know how to distinguish His voice? Here we find meaning in imitating the life of the saints, our predecessors in the faith. The saints who bravely lived the faith are those who have truly heard and followed the voice of the Good Shepherd. Therefore, as we learn from their way of life and try to live up to that model, we can begin to follow the path of listening to the voice of the Good Shepherd as they did.

As we receive today the gift of the statue of Blessed Justo Takayama Ukon, I believe it is appropriate that it coincides with the celebration of Vocation Sunday. Let us learn from Justo Takayama Ukon, who heard the voice of the Good Shepherd and followed Him and we pray for his intercession that like him we may also hear the voice of the Good Shepherd.#

Last Word from Archbishop Kikuchi:

“During today’s Vocation Sunday Mass, a statue of Blssed Takayama Ukon donated by our Filipino friends in Manila was blessed. Grateful to our Filipino community in the Archdiocese.”

世界召命祈願ミサの中で、マニラの方々から寄贈された福者高山右近の像を祝福しました。寄贈にあたって協力くださった東京教区内のフィリピン共同体の皆さんに感謝いたします。

Dr. Ernesto A. de Pedro
Takayama Trustee

Jesuit Music Ministry Composes New Tagalog Hymn for Blessed Takayama

►🎼🎵🎶 •♫**• With lyrics by Fr. Tim Ofrasio, SJ, and music by Dom Joseph Bulan, SJ, it is the FIRST Takayama Tagalog hymn to reach us this year. •♫**• 🎶🎵🎶

"Tinig Barangka" Choir, Manila
“Tinig Barangka,” which recorded “Mabunying Samurai” under JMM Director Lester Mendiola

“Mabunying Samurai” (Awit kay Justo Ukon Takayama)
By Tim Ofrasio, SJ – Dom Bulan, SJ

►1. Sumikat na araw sa bukang liwayway
Nagsabog ng liwanag sa kalupaan
Justo Ukon Takayama, maginoong banal
Daimyo’t samurai na kahanga-hanga.
►2. Di nag-atubiling lahat ay talikdan
Mawala pati yaman, dangal ng ngalan,
Kanya mang iwanan bayang niliyag
Pagka-Kristiano niya’y tunay na ipahayag.
KORO: Nawa’y buong tapang din naming harapin
Lahat ng pagsubok sa buhay namin
Tulad ng halimbawang lingkod ng Ama
O dakilang Justo Ukon Takayama.
►3. Mistulang martir na nagbuwis ng buhay
Alang-alang kay Kristong tagapag-akay
Huwarang Samurai na matapang at tapat
Kay Kristong Hari gantimpala’y ganap.
KORO: Naway buong tapang din namin harapin
Lahat ng pagsubok sa buhay namin
Tulad ng halimbawang lingkod ng Ama.
O dakilang Justo Ukon Takayama. #

►The Jesuit Music Ministry (JMM) – an arm of Jesuit Communications Philippines (JesCom) directed by Fr. Emmanuel Alfonso, SJ — is a producer and publisher of music for use in the liturgy of the Roman Catholic church. It was established in response to Vatican II’s “Sacrosanctum Concilium” which urged the entire congregation to actively participate in the liturgy that includes singing. JMM songs are now sung in churches not only in the Philippines but throughout the world.

By 1965, JMM began composing songs in the Filipino idiom. Many well-remembered compositions followed throughout the 70’s, resulting in what could be called “classics” of Filipino Liturgical Music: “Ama Namin (Our Father),” “Ang Puso Ko’y Nagpupuri (Magnificat)” and “Pananagutan.” 1981 saw the release of “Himig Heswita,” an album celebrating 400 years since the arrival of the Jesuits in the Philippines.
JMM has built on this splendid track record since then.#

Lyrics by Fr. Tim Ofrasio, SJ

►The lyricist, Fr. Tim Ofrasio. SJ, writes: “I was requested by Fr. Manoling Francisco, SJ, the renowned Jesuit composer — for lyrics for a proposed song for Blessed Takayama.

“I had no inspiration whatsoever, but still tried to research his life history. I prayed to him to help me write verses on his life and sacrifice. The inspiration I received was about the Jesus Christ as the true rising Sun, and the fidelity of this noble samurai to his Lord, the true rising Sun. I was also touched by Takayama’s willingness to turn his back from his lofty position and earthly honors in order to stand for his faith in Jesus Christ, to the point of leaving his homeland in order to remain faithful to his Lord.

“In this sense, he faced martyrdom, albeit unbloody, but nonetheless painful. Thus the lyrics of the hymn.”

Music by Dom Bulan, SJ

►The composer, Dom Joseph Bulan, SJ [Dom Bulan], writes: “It was really a fruit of collaboration since we received the request to come up with the hymn from Lester Mendiola of Jesuit Music Ministry. (It was actually one of your [Dr. Ernesto A. de Pedro’s] emails where you attached some prayers and information about his life).

“I asked Fr. Tim if he could come up with the lyrics for the hymn, and he gladly came up with it.

“I was the one who wrote the music for the piece, and in the process solicited some suggestions from Fr. Manoling Francisco, SJ (of the Jesuit Music Ministry, who has composed over 150 songs that are sung all over the world) and Fr. Arnel Aquino, SJ., Assistant Professor of Systematic Theology, who has written 18 songs for the JMM, among them, “Pagsibol” and “Ito Ang Araw.”

‘Tinig Barangka’

►Among the Jesuit Music Ministry’s many choirs, it was “Tinig Barangka,” which recorded “Mabunying Samurai” under JMM Director Lester Mendiola. “Tinig Barangka” started singing during the 70’s under Fr. Eduardo Hontiveros, SJ, as the “Barangka Choir” and later changed into “Tinig Barangka.” Composed by professionals and students whose mission is to spread God’s love through the songs, the choir started singing in concerts of the 70’s like “Purihi’t Pasalamatan,” “Hesus na Aking Kapatid,” “Talinghaga” — which promoted Filipino liturgical music. “Tinig Barangka” has worked with numerous conductors and composers, including ● Fr. Eduardo Hontiveros, SJ, ● Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, ●  Fr. Nemie Que, SJ, ● Fr. Fruto Ramirez, SJ, ● Fr. Tim Ofrasio, SJ, ● Fr. Manoling Francisco, SJ, and ● Fr. Arnel Aquino, SJ. Today “Tinig Barangka” continues to usher out the quality standards of liturgical music with the passion of serving God and His people.

Entrance of PLM University Chapel (Intramuros, Manila)
Japanese pilgrims visit the PLM University Chapel which stands in the PLM/Jesuit Compound where Lord Justo Ukon Takayama lived for 44 days — before passing away on Feb. 3, 1615. Ukon was entombed in this compound — until their transfer to the new Jesuit church — San Ignacio Church-II — on Arzobispo St. in Intramuros.

First Church Rendition

►On Saturday, June 29 – feast day of St. Peter & St. Paul — “Mabunying Samurai” will be sung for the first time at two related events — in Manila and in Wilmington, California: ◘ The installation of Blessed Takayama at the PLM University Chapel by Manila Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, and ◘ The installation of Blessed Takayama at the St. Peter & Sr. Paul Catholic Church in Wilmington, California at 5 PM (California time) – by Rev. Fr. Hildebrand Garceau, O.Praem.#

Dr. Ernesto A. de Pedro
Takayama Trustee

Five Occasions Pope Francis Weighed in on Blessed Takayama

At 21, Lord Takayama became Daimyo of Takatsuki. Here, a majority of his retainers and subjects became Catholics – in a land that had for millennia been a Shinto-Buddhist country
At 21, Lord Takayama became Daimyo of Takatsuki. Here, a majority of his retainers and subjects became Catholics – in a land that had for millennia been a Shinto-Buddhist country

►When the celebrated “Samurai of Christ,” Justo Ukon Takayama (高山右近, 1552-1615) was declared a “Servant of God” on June 5, 1994, the Pope then was Pope John Paul II (r. 1978-2005).

Alone among the Church of Japan’s candidates for sainthood, Dom Justo Takayama had been processed as a Confessor – a Catholic of heroic virtue. Which meant every aspect of his life from the day of his baptism had to be studied, requiring many years – perhaps even decades.

In 2008, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Japan (CBCJ) thought Martyrdom was the faster way to proceed with the “Cause of Takayama.” So the CBCJ petitioned the Congregation for the Causes of Saints (CCS) to pursue the next canonical step to sainthood — as a Martyr. During the preparation for the beatification of “188 Japanese Martyrs (1603-1639)” in Nagasaki in November 2008, they proposed the reclassification.

But the CCS was not inclined at that time to declare a Manila Catholic, who died in bed with by his father-confessor at his bedside, and surrounded by family and friends — as a Martyr. The theology of martyrdom had not yet been reexamined to include such candidates.

In 2013, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Japan submitted a revised application for the beatification of Takayama – as a Martyr.

‘Build on the Legacy of Your Martyrs’

◘ On March 20,  2015 — Pope Francis, in his message to Japanese Bishops during their “ad Limina” visit to the Vatican, urged them to build on the legacy of their martyrs – numbering 42 Saints and 393 Blessed.  Dom Justo Ukon Takayama, a pillar of the early Jesuit missions in Japan was, at this time, a “Servant of God” — the first rung in the ladder to sainthood.

Decree of Martyrdom

◘ On Jan 21, 2016 – Pope Francis issued a “Decree of Martyrdom,” paving the way for Takayama’s immediate beatification.

“Since Takayama died in exile because of the weaknesses caused by the maltreatments he suffered in his homeland, the process for beatification is that of a martyr,” Fr. Anton Witwer, SJ, General Postulator of the Society of Jesus, explained. Takayama’s life exemplifies the Christian example of “a great fidelity to the Christian vocation, persevering despite all difficulties,” Father Witwer continued.

The Japanese Bishops quickly shared the information with Manila and acknowledged the help given by the Philippine Church to this four-centuries old campaign to elevate Takayama to the honors of the altar:“With your help, we have realized our hope. We are deeply thankful for your help.”

osakajo
The Takayama Beatification Rites were held in Osaka on Feb. 7, 2017 – with Cardinal Angelo Amato, SDB, representing Pope Francis

‘An Extraordinary Witness of the Christian Faith’

◘ On Feb. 8, 2017 (the day AFTER the beatification rites of Blessed Takayama in Osaka), Pope Francis reflected on Ukon during his weekly General Audience in the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall:

“Yesterday, in Osaka, Japan, Justo Takayama Ukon, loyal Japanese layman, who was martyred in Manila in 1615, was beatified.”

The Holy Father said: “Rather than compromise, Ukon renounced honors and prosperity and accepted humiliation and exile. He remained faithful to Christ and to the Gospel; for this, he is a wonderful example of strength in the faith and dedication in charity.”

“Ukon succeeded in bringing many people to Christ, primarily powerful samurai families… In 1587, however, Hideyoshi decided to eliminate what was described as “the religion of the West.” Torture, abjurations and violence pushed the majority of the Christian neophytes to abandon the faith. Ukon, however, resisted. Willing to face death and humiliation but not to renounce Christianity, he surrendered his fief and military honors into the hands of the Kampaku [Imperial Regent].

“In Japan, his homeland, Ukon also left a trace that endures up to today. Before going into exile, he contributed to the foundation of several seminaries in the Nagasaki area, small communities that had the task to keep the Christian flame lighted in the course of the centuries. Nagasaki is, still today, the area in which the greatest number of followers of Christ is concentrated.

“The memory of Justus Takayama Ukon always remained alive in them. Already in the 17thcentury, thanks to the clergy of Manila, an attempt was made to beatify ‘Christ’s samurai.’ However, because of the isolationist policy of the Tokugawa shogunate, it was impossible to obtain the necessary documents for the canonical investigation.

“There was a second attempt in 1965 — frustrated, however, by some errors of form in the preparation of the cause.

“Finally yesterday, Justus’ beatification became a reality. Cardinal Angelo Amato, Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, celebrated the Mass at Osaka.” AsiaNews reported that Cardinal Amato described the new Blessed as “an extraordinary witness of the Christian faith in difficult times of opposition and persecution.”

Blessed Justus is the first individually-processed candidate to receive the honors of the altar in the history of Japanese Catholicism. Japan has in fact 42 Saints and 393 Blessed, all martyrs of the Edo period (1603-1867) and all celebrated as a group. “These martyrs bless the Japanese Church with their splendid witness,” said Cardinal Amato.

‘Whenever I think of Japan, my thoughts turn to the witness of your many martyrs’

◘ On Sept. 14, 2017 – Pope Francis sent a message to Japanese Bishops through Cardinal Fernando Filoni, Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.

>>>Pope Francis: “Whenever I think of the Church in Japan, my thoughts return to the witness of the many martyrs who have offered their lives for the faith. They always have a special place in my heart: I think of ● St. Paul Miki and his companions, who in 1597 were sacrificed, faithful to Christ and the Church; I think of the innumerable confessors of faith, ● Blessed Justus Takayama Ukon, who at the same time preferred poverty and the path of exile rather than recanting the name of Jesus.

“And what about the so-called ‘hidden Christians,’ who from 1600 to the mid-1800s lived underground, not to recant, but to preserve their faith, and of which we recently remembered the 150th anniversary of the discovery? The long line of martyrs and confessors of faith, by nationality, language, social class and age, shared a profound love with the Son of God, renouncing either his civil status or other aspects of his social condition, all “in order to earn Christ” (Phil 3: 8). Remembering that spiritual heritage, I turn to you dear brothers who have inherited it, and that with gentle solicitude continue in the task of evangelization, especially taking care of the weakest and favoring the integration into the communities of faithful from various backgrounds.

“I would like to thank you for this, as well as for the commitment to cultural promotion, interreligious dialogue and the care of creation. In particular, I would like to reflect with you on the missionary mission of the Church in Japan. ‘If the Church is born Catholic (that is, universal) it means that it was born ‘outgoing’ — that it was born missionary.’ (General Audience on 17 September 2014). In fact, ‘the love of Christ pushes us’ (2 Cor 5,14) to offer our life for the Gospel. Such dynamism dies if we lose our missionary enthusiasm. For this reason life is strengthened by giving it and it weakens itself in isolation and agitation. In fact, those who make the most of the chances of life are those who leave the safe shore and are passionate about the mission of communicating life to others.” (Evangelii gaudium, 10).

‘We commend you to Blessed Takayama’

◘ On Dec. 8, 2018 – Pope Francis appointed Osaka Cardinal Thomas Aquinas Manyo Maeda as his Papal Legate to the 50th Anniversary of the postwar reconstruction of the Manila Cathedral-Basilica:

>>>“You are to act in our name, therefore, on the 8th day of the coming month of December, more than four years since we have visited it, at the Cathedral in Manila — also titled as Minor Basilica of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary — giving thanks to God for the beauty of this temple but most importantly for the lively faith of the pastors and of the Christian faithful, who always pray there every day, approaching Christ the Lord, the living stone who is chosen and precious before God, so that they who are also living stones be built up by God as a spiritual abode. (cf. 1 Peter 2:4-5).

“Through prayer we will sustain the great task of your mission, while even now zealously we place you, our venerable brother, under the most loving protection of the Holy Mother of God, Blessed Virgin Mary: ‘For there is only one God, and only one mediator between God and men, the man who gave himself as ransom for all, Jesus Christ’ (1 Tim 2:5-6), in whose Mother ‘he had the most perfect degree of mediation possible… and deigned to preserve her from original sin” (Bl. John Duns Scotus, Ordinatio III d. 3. n. 2).

“And indeed desiring for you a heavenly companion in Manila, we also commend you to ● Blessed Justo Takayama Ukon, who is recently raised to the glory of the altars in Osaka. We therefore abundantly pour upon you our Apostolic Blessing; and we generously share it with all of those to whom you will be sent: beloved pastors, seminarians, religious men and women, and lay Christian faithful, most especially the poor and the children.”

In the first celebration of the feast day of Blessed Takayama on Feb. 3, 2018, six Japanese bishops choose to concelebrate Mass at the Manila Cathedral with Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle and the Apostolic Nuncio, Archb. Gabrielle Caccia
In the first celebration of the feast day of Blessed Takayama on Feb. 3, 2018, six Japanese bishops choose to concelebrate Mass at the Manila Cathedral with Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle and the Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop Gabriele Giordano Caccia

►Pope Francis has announced TWICE his intention to visit Japan “before the end of the year.” It will be a sentimental journey for, as a young Jesuit, he had aspired to serve in the missions of Japan. His plans did not materialize – for health issues. But we pray his journey would go through – as his visit comes at an important intersection of Japanese history.#

Dr. Ernesto A. de Pedro
Takayama Trustee