Mar 11, 2012

One year has passed since the March 11 disaster

Today is the first anniversary of the March 11 disaster in Japan, the great Tohoku earthquake, and prayer services have been organised all over Japan to remember more than 18,000 victims who had been killed mainly by Tsunami.

As a bishop in charge of relief and rehabilitation effort of Catholic Bishops Conference of Japan and also as a president of Caritas Japan, I would like to thank you, our friends, in and out of Japan who assisted or supported our efforts through you kind donations and rich prayers, and also through your physical presences in the disaster area as one of volunteers.  Thank you so much for your kindness and compassion.  We learnt a lot from your kind gesture the importance of solidarity and, today, we are resolved to spread the spirit of solidarity to all over Japan started from the Tohoku area.  Kindly continue to keep those victims in your prayer and also pray for those survivors who are struggling to reconstruct their normal lives.

Though I said that we have learnt a meaning and importance of solidarity, we still hear the news stories almost every week that people are dying alone in their house in middle of big cities in Japan without being noticed or more than 30,000 people are forced to commit suicide a year which began in 1997.  Yes, we still need to spread this good news of solidarity to all over Japan. 

Holy Father in his 2012 Lenten message pointed that we have to reflect on the importance of concern for others.  Holy Father pointed out that "concern for others entails desiring what is good for them from every point of view: physical, moral and spiritual"  So it is not enough for us to just provide material needs of people in the disaster hit area.  We also have to consider their psychological needs and spiritual needs.  That we, Catholics, have a lot to contribute.  Caritas Japan and its volunteers are now trying to fulfill these spiritual needs by visiting shelter and chat with people every day.

Today on 11 March, Catholic Church in Japan organised special Mass to commemorate the first anniversary of the disaster.  I said Mass in Akita parish together with parishioners from Akita and Tsuchizaki. Despite of heavy snow this morning in Akita area, many people joined the Mass.