Manila Bulletin

Ja­panese Chris­tian who died in PH be­at­i­fied

- Religion · Christianity · Spirituality · Catholic Church · Philippines · Tokyo · Japan · Takayama · Pope Francis · Society of Jesus · Manila · Asia · Martin Scorsese · Silence · Osaka

TOKYO, Ja­pan (AFP) — A Ja­panese Chris­tian samu­rai who died in ex­ile about 400 years ago af­ter re­fus­ing to re­nounce his faith was be­at­i­fied by the Catholic Church in an elab­o­rate mass on Tues­day.

About 12,000 peo­ple at­tended the cer­e­mony for Takayama Ukon in Osaka which was con­ducted by Car­di­nal An­gelo Amato, rep­re­sent­ing Pope Fran­cis, and is a step on the path to pos­si­ble saint­hood.

Chris­tian­ity came to Ja­pan in 1549, in­tro­duced by Je­suit mis­sion­ary Fran­cis Xavier and for decades the faith made dra­matic in­roads be­fore com­ing un­der of­fi­cial per­se­cu­tion in the late 16th and 17th cen­turies that forced it un­der­ground.

Takayama, born in 1552, was a renowned feu­dal war­lord who pro­tected Chris­tians at a time when au­thor­i­ties at­tempted to stamp out all ves­tiges of the re­li­gion.

He died in Manila in 1615 in ex­ile af­ter re­fus­ing to re­nounce the faith as de­manded by the shogun, or mil­i­tary ruler of Ja­pan, who viewed Chris­tian­ity as a threat to na­tional se­cu­rity and in­de­pen­dence as Western colo­nial­ism made in­roads in Asia.

In the cer­e­mony Tues­day, hun­dreds sang in a choir, while red-robed clergy read from the Bible.

Amato, read­ing an Apos­tolic Let­ter from Fran­cis, “pro­claimed as Blessed” Takayama, lauded as a man who chose faith over worldly suc­cess and ma­te­rial com­fort.

His be­at­i­fi­ca­tion co­in­cides with re­newed at­ten­tion on the his­tory of Chris­tian­ity in Ja­pan with the re­lease of the Martin Scors­ese movie “Si­lence”.

The film, a pet project of the renowned Amer­i­can di­rec­tor, chron­i­cles the plight of Je­suit mis­sion­ar­ies in Ja­pan when Chris­tians were tor­tured to force them to re­nounce their faith.

The movie was adapted from Ja­panese au­thor Shusaku Endo’s 1966 novel of the same name.

Chris­tian­ity was ini­tially met with a mix of cu­rios­ity and ac­cep­tance among mem­bers of the Ja­panese pub­lic.

Its pop­u­lar­ity spread and there were an es­ti­mated 220,000 to 300,000 fol­low­ers in Ja­pan in the early 1600s out of a pop­u­la­tion of 15-20 mil­lion.

But pow­er­ful war­lords with na­tional in­flu­ence, cog­nisant of the Span­ish takeover of the Philip­pines, be­gan to fear the for­eign faith and ef­forts to erase it be­gan in 1587.

Mis­sion­ar­ies were ex­pelled, while Ja­panese ad­her­ents were or­dered to pub­licly re­nounce their faith, some­times by step­ping on a like­ness of Je­sus or the Vir­gin Mary.

In 1614, the gov­ern­ment banned Chris­tian­ity com­pletely.

Takayama, who was ac­claimed as a mas­ter of Ja­panese tea cer­e­mony, was not sub­ject to abuse when he re­fused to re­nounce his faith un­like many of his fel­low be­liev­ers.

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