Francis recalled that as a young man he wanted to come as a missionary to the Land of the Rising Sun. "In Japan the Church is small and Catholics are a minority" (536 thousand, 0.4 percent of the population), and evangelization requires commitment to "a humble, daily witness and dialogue with other religious traditions ". No mention of the crisis that Hong Kong is experiencing in telegrams to the heads of state of China, Hong Kong and Taiwan.
Tokyo (AsiaNews) - Pope Francis has arrived in Japan. His first appointment with the country's bishops underlined his upcoming commitments in Nagasaki and Hiroshima where he will remember the atomic bombings and meet the survivors of that "tragic episode in human history" and urge them to continue the mission which in Japan is "characterized by a strong quest for inculturation and dialogue".
Francis arrived in Tokyo from Thailand, at 17.32 local time (8.32 GMT), under a heavy rain and a strong wind, welcomed by the Japanese deputy prime minister Tarō Asō, by bishops and clergy and by a Catholic school hundred students who carried a welcome message in Spanish.
From the airport Francis went to the nunciature where he met the Japanese bishops (in the photo).
During the flight, the aircraft also flew over China, Hong Kong and Taiwan. As is custom the Pope sends a telegram to the head of state of the country flown over. This was also the case this time, with messages to Chinese President Xi Jinping, Hong Kong Governor Carrie Lam and Taiwan President Tsai. They are routine messages and once again invoke blessings on the head of state and the population and ensure prayers for peace. No mention of the crisis in Hong Kong. And no mention of Macao, also a Chinese region with a special administration.
In his address to the bishops, Francis first of all recalled the "missionary impulse" he had had as a young man precisely for the Land of the Rising Sun. And "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 Takayama Ukon, 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 ”.
"In Japan - he said - the Church is small and Catholics are a minority" (536 thousand, 0.4 percent of the population), and evangelization requires commitment to "a humble, daily witness and dialogue with other religious traditions ". Pastoral care for the many foreign workers, "who represent more than half of Japan's Catholics", is a testimony of the Gospel within Japanese society, and attests "the universality of the Church" in which "our union with Christ it is stronger than any other bond or identity ".
In this reality, the mission "is 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".
"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."
Francis then recalled that tomorrow he will be in "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."
Speaking of the evils that afflict the Japanese society, Francis said: "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 ".
"I recognize - he concluded - recognize that the harvest is great and the labourers 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." (FP)