Apr 24, 2012

Seminarians visiting Niigata Diocese

From 24 to 27 April, 23 seminarians and 6 formators of Japan Catholic Major Seminary are visiting Niigata Diocese. The group consists of deacons and seminarians in Philosophy course. In Japan, at this moment, every seminarians from all together 16 dioceses have to join the National Major Seminary which has 2 separate campuses, one in Tokyo for Philosophy and the other in Fukuoka for Theology. After their ordination as deacon, they return to Tokyo for special one year course prepared for deacons. Unfortunately, there are no seminarians from Niigata Diocese at this moment. 

The group is led by Fr. Koshi ITO of Tokyo diocese, the vice rector. Fr. Ebe of Niigata and Fr. Otaki, the chancellor of the diocese and also a teacher of Philosophy of the seminary, joined the group to visit Sado. As their budget are limited, they will sleep at the Parish Hall of Sado Catholic Church, thanks to the hospitality of Fr. Kawasaki, the parish priest and my Vicar General.

In Sado island, they will visit the Hyakunin-zuka memorial of Christian martyrdom which occurred almost 400 years ago. As Niigata district of the diocese is planning to organise a pilgrimage on 12 and 13 May to the memorial, seminarians will clear the area and prepare for the event. Thank you for your prayer and hard work, seminarians.

They will return to Niigata on Thursday, 26. There will be Mass at 5 pm on 26 April in Niigata Cathedral with seminarians followed by a party. You are also welcome to join us to pray for the seminarians.

Apr 23, 2012

Japan or Taiwan?

A title of an article in certain web-page was astonishing enough to make me suspicious.  The site was the "CatholicCulture.org" and it read as follows; "Japanese bishops hold neutrality on peaceful nuclear power".  According to the article, we, the Japanese bishops decided not to join the anti-nuclear demonstration on the anniversary of 11th March disaster in Fukushima.  Then the article continues as follows;

But the episcopal conference said that it would remain neutral on the subject of nuclear power production, following the lead of the Vatican. The Holy See has indicated cautious support for the peaceful use of nuclear energy.  

I was really shocked to read this article since we, the Japanese Bishops, issued a public statement to call for immediate closure of nuclear power plants in Japan.  You may read the statement in this link.

It is not that Japanese Bishops are calling for abolishing all the existing nuclear power plants in all over the world.  But what we are saying is that considering magnitude of after effects of Fukushima disaster and considering the geographical condition of Japan which is prone to major earthquakes, it is against to human moral obligation to continue to maintain this technology in this country citing the present level of energy supply had to be maintained in order to uphold ultra modern life styles while it had been witnessed that the present scientific wisdom could not save nuclear power plants from such massive disaster as 11th March in Japan and no one knows what to do with its remaining wastes.  Therefore, Japanese Bishops are not taking neutral position on this issue.

When I read the article, I wondered about the demonstration which was mentioned in it.  As a member of the standing commission of the Bishops Conference, I never heard of such demonstration to which Japanese Catholic Church had been invited to join.  So I went to the referring article which was an article in the site called "Vatican Insider".

Then it was much more astonishing.   It wrote as follows;

On the anniversary of Fukushima’s nuclear disaster, in Japan, various creeds were set to form an international anti-nuclear movement, but it was not to be. In contrast with other religions, the Japanese Catholic Church did not attend the anti-nuclear demonstrations in Taipei, Taichung and Kaohsiung.


Roughly seventy creeds and religions joined the appeal of the movement’s organizers who have been coordinated by a Buddhist nun, Shih Chao-Hwei. The conference of bishops and the Catholic congregations however refused to join in. The Japanese ChurchVatican has asked them to remain neutral in regards to nuclear power.

Something must be wrong with the one who had wrote this article.  This demonstration mentioned in the article is in Taiwan and not in Japan.  I asked the secretary general of the Japanese Bishops Conference about any invitation from Taiwan and he knew nothing about it.  Most probably, this bishops conference which expressed neutrality to the said demonstration in Taiwan must be the Chinese Regional Catholic Bishops' Conference which is in Taiwan and not the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Japan.  Japanese Bishops are taking clear position for this and, not only calling for the closure of the nuclear power plants in earthquake prone Japan, calling general public to re-examine our lavish life style which requires abundance of energy supply and make necessary adjustment according to Japanese cultural tradition.  In conclusion, the Japanese Bishops statement wrote as follows;

Japan has its culture, wisdom and tradition that have long co-existed with nature. Religions such as Shinto and Buddhism are also based on the same spirit. Christianity has the spirit of poverty as well. Therefore, Christians have an obligation to bear genuine witness to the Gospel especially through the ways of life expected by God; “simplicity of life, the spirit of prayer, charity towards all, especially towards the lowly and the poor, obedience and humility, detachment and self-sacrifice”. We should choose anew a simple and plain lifestyle based on the spirit of the Gospel, in cases like saving electricity. We live in the hope that science and technology will develop and advance based on the same spirit. These attitudes will surely lead to a safer and more secure life without nuclear plants.

Apr 21, 2012

Spring has arrived in Niigata

Japan is an archipelago stretching from north to south and it is quite long.  Last week I was in Okinawa for the Catholic Volunteer Association as I have mentioned in the post below, I enjoyed almost summer weather of Okinawa with the highest of 27 degrees Celsius.  Then I returned to Niigata to join my diocesan priests for an overnight trip to Onsen (hot spring) for Easter celebration.  There was heavy accumulation of snow in mountain side of Niigata.  Cherry blooms are seasonal feature to declare that winter has finished and spring has began in Japan.  Although the cherry blooms are already completed in Tokyo area, it has just started in Niigata.  The local meteorological agency declared yesterday that cherry bloom has finally arrived Niigata.

Photo above is the Niigata Catholic Cathedral seen through cherry blossom on 20 April.   Photo below is clearing accumulated snow in Yamakoshi town in Niigata on 17 April.

Major seminarians studying in the Tokyo campus of the Japan National Catholic Seminary together with their formators are visiting Niigata area from 24, Tuesday, to 27, Friday.  Seminarians in Tokyo are the first and second year of Philosophy and Deacons.  All together 30 of them will visit Sado island for 2 days and make pilgrimage to the memorial of martyrdom of 100 Christians in Sado.  Then they will return to Niigata on 26, Thursday.  There will be a Mass in Niigata Catholic Cathedral Church with seminarians at 5 pm on 26 which will be presided by myself and will be followed by BBQ party with parishioners.  You are welcome to join us for both Mass and party.

As for pilgrimage to Sado, there will be another one for everyone in the diocese to visit the memorial of martyrdom of Sado on 12 and 13 May.  However, you have to register with your parish by tomorrow, 22 April, and it will cost you JPY 20,000.  You may also contact Mr. Ichikawa of Aoyama Parish who is the chairperson of laity council of the Niigata district. You may refer to the official homepage of the Niigata diocese in this link and may find e-mail address of Mr. Ichikawa at the bottom of the announcement.

Apr 19, 2012

Catholic Volunteers gathered in Okinawa

The Japan Catholic Volunteer Association has organised its 11th National Assembly in Asato Catholic Church in Okinawa on 14 and 15 April and more than 70 people took part.  I also joined the event as a bishop in charge of the association which I inherited from Bishop Matsuura during their last assembly in Niigata, my diocese, 3 years ago.  The theme of the assembly was "aspiring to be a volunteer acting global" and, as the event took place in Okinawa, they also had chance to learn about history and reality of Okinawa which hosts 74% of US military bases in Japan. 

On the first day, Ms. Takasato, a former city council member of Naha city, was invited to give us a lecture on the history and the reality of Okinawa.  She spoke intensively on the issue of military bases in Okinawa and their effort to negotiate both with Japanese and US government to remove them from Okinawa.  Okinawa consists of only 0.6 % of entire territory of Japan, yet it hosts, as I have mentioned, 74 % of US military bases in all over Japan.  Both governments always talk about security issues and international relationships as reasons to maintain bases in Okinawa, however it should be considered as a matter of survival of local people or achieve peaceful lives of people in Okinawa, she mentioned.  Then after the talk, we went to visit both Futenma base and Kadena base.  Of course, we are not able to go inside the base but we could see from nearby facilities and could, at least, felt danger of placing such military bases in middle of congested city center.  Ms. Takasato also told us that it is a myth to say that without US bases economy of Okinawa can not be maintained.  Then she pointed out that Shin-toshin area of Naha city, where the Asato Catholic Church is located and used to be a military housing area which was returned to Japan in 1987, is now developed as a modern town with shopping centers and offices which had been producing much more employment than before.  So local governments have their own plan of development once these bases are returned.  Well I do understand the difficulty in international security issues at this moment of the history in East Asia, however as I witnessed the reality of life of people in Okinawa, I belive that the better solution has to be sought to secure peaceful lives of local people and also to protect beautiful environment of Okinawa.  It should be treated as a matter of preserving human lives which is a precious gift from God.

After we returned from the visits, Bishop Oshikawa of Naha provided us wonderful party with local songs, dance and, of course, local drinks.

On the second day which was a second Sunday of Easter, Mass of thanksgiving was celebrated at the Asato Catholic Church with Bishop Oshikawa and emeritus bishop Ishigami in attendance.  I presided over the Mass with parishioners of Asato.  The association is grateful to the diocese of Naha which provided wonderful hospitality for the event.

More photos in the Facebook:

Apr 10, 2012

Happy and blessed Easter!

Happy and blessed Easter to you all!

Thanks for the hard work of the parish priest and his assistant, Fr. Ebe and Fr. Sakamoto, to prepare very well 3 candidates for this year's Easter baptism, I was happy to welcome three ladies for the sacrament to join the community.  There was one baptism on Easter Vigil and 2 on Easter Sunday.  In addition, 2 high school students, a boy and a girl, received the sacrament of confirmation on Easter Sunday.  Congratulations to all of you who received these sacraments and welcome to join our Catholic community in Niigata.

It is all about passing over.  We have to find out from and to where we have to pass over.   As resurrected Jesus did not remain at the place where he had been laid, those who received into new life have to also leave where we are and move into completely different place,or take completely new way of living based on new values.  So what are we leaving behind us?  Also as Peter said we also have to be a witnesses of what we experienced.  As we contemplate about the reality of Japan at this moment especially the situation after the March 11 disaster, we seriously think about what kind of message or value we are going to witness to other people in Japan.  As for moral decisions, there should be only "Yes" or "No" and should not be any compromise in between, though in reality, we are often unable to meet the requirements and fail.  If we are obliged to protect human life which is a precious gift of God, then we have to be real witnesses of the value and say "No" to any political move to destroy it such as re-opening of nuclear power plants in Japan even though no one actually knows the real cause of the accident in Fukushima yet.

Though the cherry blossom of this spring is coming quite slow and we still can not feel real spring in Niigata yet, Easter celebration, as usual, brings warm and bright feelings of spring time.   I wish all of you very happy Easter.

Apr 5, 2012

Chrism Mass in Niigata and Sapporo

Both in Niigata and Sapporo dioceses, the Chrism Mass has not been celebrated on Holy Thursday because of long distance which priests have to travel to reach the Cathedral. It is impossible for many of them to return to their respective parishes on time to celebrate Holy Thursday liturgy if they have to be in the respective Cathedral on Thursday morning.

Chrism Mass in Niigata was celebrated on Tuesday at 10 am with more than 30 priests and almost 100 faithfuls.  In Niigata, most of priests working in the diocese joined the Mass except SVD confreres in Akita which was represented by the district superior.

Chrism Mass in Sapporo was celebrated on Wednesday at 10:30 am with also more than 30 priests and almost 100 faithfuls.  Weather on this Wednesday in all over Japan was terrible and Hokkaido was just like a winter with snow and strong wind.  Despite the bad weather, so many people made quite a effort to travel to the Cathedral.

Apr 2, 2012

Holy Week Liturgy

I have been a bit busy for past few weeks and, thus, could not post more than one article for March.  Sorry for this.  Now it is already April and, in Japan, new school year and fiscal year of 2012 has started.  Then this year's Holy Week has began with the Palm Sunday on 1 April.   I visited and celebrated Mass in Kamo Church in Niigata Prefecture. Kamo city is an hour drive from my house in Niigata city. It was a clod day like winter with strong wind and cold rain. Kamo Catholic community is a small community and they have lost two strong senior members recently. However, the community members are trying their best to create a family like friendly community there.  Also they have just get their new parish priest in person of Rev. Fr. Kotaro SAKAMOTO, until now an associate parish priest of the Cathedral.  Photo above is almost all the members of Kamo who attended the Palm Sunday Mass.

Now as we are in the Holy Week, let me post the schedule of liturgy in Niigata Cathedral.
  • 3 April at 10 am; Chrism Mass of Niigata diocese in Niigata Cathedral
  • 4 April; Chrism Mass of Sapporo diocese in Kita Ichijo Cathedral in Sapporo
  • 5 April at 7 pm; Holy Thursday Mass in Niigata Cathedral
  • 6 April at 3 pm: Stations of Cross in Niigata Cathedral
  • 6 April at 7 pm; Good Friday Liturgy in Niigata Cathedral
  • 7 April at 7 pm; Easter Vigil Mass in Niigata Cathedral
  • 8 April at 9:30 am; Easter Mass in Niigata Cathedral
You are all welcome to join us in Niigata Catholic Cathedral Church.