Jan 31, 2014

Four SVD Bishops met somewhere in the US

There are 47 SVD Bishops, including both active and retired, in the Church. Four of them met each other during a certain conference in the US recently and all of them are linked with Africa.

Photo above from left to right. Bishop Frank Nubuasah, SVD, Bishop of Francistown, Botswana, Bishop Jorge Vega Velasco, SVD, Bishop of Illapel, Chile, myself and Bishop Carlos Pellegrin, SVD, Bishop of Chillian, Chile.

Bishop Jorge worked in Angola before and all other three worked in Ghana. Bishop Carlos and myself were sent to Ghana in the same year, 1986, and Bishop Frank was a novice master of Ghana province while we were in Ghana. It was quite refreshing to meet old friends.

Jan 17, 2014

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity @ Niigata city

Once a year from 18 to 25 January, every Christians all over the world are invited to gather together regardless of their different denominations to pray for Christian Unity. Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and the World Council of Churches work together every year to decide the theme and publish a booklet. This year's theme is "Has Christ been divided?" (cf. 1Cor 1:1-17)

In Niigata Diocese, joint prayer services will be organised in respective districts following their own local conditions. Even there is none of such events near your parishes or you may not have time to join the joint prayer services, you are encouraged to remember this prayer intention for Christian Unity during this 8 days starting from tomorrow as your own prayer intention.

In Niigata city itself, there will be 4 joint prayer services during the week. There used to be evening services for every night during the week, however, because of aging memberships of Churches, it has been decided to have 4 meetings during the day time.

  1. 19 January Sunday at 14:00 (2 pm): Hanazano Catholic Church
  2. 21 January Tuesday at 10:30 (am): Niigata St. Paul Anglican Church
  3. 23 January Thursday at 10:30 (am): Terao Catholic Church
  4. 25 January Saturday at 10:30 (am): Niitsu Church of the United Church of Christ in Japan

Sunday on 19 in Hanazono is designated as the central prayer service and I will also join the prayer. You are all invited to pray together.

Appointment of new Cardinals announced

As it has been reported in media, Pope Francis on 12 January after the Angels announced 19 names to be created as Cardinals during the upcoming Consistory on 22 February. Names of new Cardinals are as follows.

  1. Pietro Parolin, Titular Archbishop of Acquapendente, Secretary of State
  2. Lorenzo Baldisseri, Titular Archbishop of Diocleziana, Secretary General of the Synod of Bishops.
  3. Gerhard Ludwig Műller, Archbishop-Bishop emeritus of Regensburg, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
  4. Beniamino Stella, Titular Archbishop of Midila, Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy.
  5. Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster (Great Britain).
  6. Leopoldo José Brenes Solórzano, Archbishop of Managua (Nicaragua).
  7. Gérald Cyprien Lacroix, Archbishop of Québec (Canada).
  8. Jean-Pierre Kutwa, Archbishop of Abidjan (Ivory Coast).
  9. Orani João Tempesta, O.Cist., Archbishop of Rio de Janeiro (Brazil).
  10. Gualtiero Bassetti, Archbishop of Perugia-Città della Pieve (Italy).
  11. Mario Aurelio Poli, Archbishop of Buenos Aires (Argentina).
  12. Andrew Yeom Soo jung, Archbishop of Seoul (Korea).
  13. Ricardo Ezzati Andrello, S.D.B., Archbishop of Santiago del Cile (Chile).
  14. Philippe Nakellentuba Ouédraogo, Archbishop of Ouagadougou (Burkina Faso).
  15. Orlando B. Quevedo, O.M.I., Archbishop of Cotabato (Philippines).
  16. Chibly Langlois, Bishop of Les Cayes (Haïti).
Following three cardinal designate are over 80 and, thus, do not have voting rights for next Pope.
  1. Loris Francesco Capovilla, Titular Archbishop of Mesembria.
  2. Fernando Sebastián Aguilar, C.M.F., Archbishop emeritus of Pamplona.
  3. Kelvin Edward Felix, Archbishop emeritus of Castries
Archbishop Capovilla was a secretary for late Pope John XXIII. During the priests' assembly of Niigata last year, Archbishop Takami of Nagasaki showed us a video program on the Vatican II and Archbishop Capovilla was featured in the program to testify what was actually going on with the Pope to decide to have the Vat.II Council.

It is good to see at least two names from Asia; Archbishop Quevedo of Cotabado who used be a secretary general of FABC is a cheerful and friendly bishop with wonderful talent to be a leader of huge organisation such as FABC. As you may imagine, organising a structure with many bishops is not a easy task.  Diocese of Cotabado is in Mindanao where the security situation has not been favorable to Christians as such. Abp Quevedo himself once experienced his Cathedral almost bombed during Mass.

Abp Andrew Yeom of Seoul is also very much friendly and pastoral oriented. I met him several times during the annual exchange meetings between Korean and Japanese Bishops. Also I had a chance to witness his dancing ability during one of FABC workshops in Taiwan a few years ago. You may try to see the Korean TV news on new cardinal.

Jan 8, 2014

Happy New Year

My dear brothers and sisters, I wish you Happy New Year! May God bless you and your family, relatives and friends so that your words and deeds in the Year 2014 may be real witnesses of the Gospel message.

I have written a new year's pastoral letter but it is still in Japanese only. English translation may be available soon. Meanwhile, you may try to read it in Japanese in this link.

In Niigata Diocese on the New Year's Day, two Parish communities became one in Nagaoka city, Niigata prefecture. There used to be two parish communities in Nagaoka city, the second largest city in Niigata prefecture, namely Omotemachi and Fukuzumi. After more than two years of deliberations among parish councils of both communities and with entire Parish members, Niigata diocese decided to amalgamate two and make Omotemachi as the new center for the new parish in Nagaoka city.

This decision was prompted by the request from Franciscans (OFM) who had been in charge of the pastoral care of Nagaoka district for more than 50 years to withdraw their members from these two parishes because of aging and declining membership of the order. Then Provincial of the Franciscans approached me a few years back while one of their Fathers were still in charge of these two parishes.

I did not know what to do since I had just enough diocesan priests, all together 15 of them, to maintain parishes in two districts and I did not have any more priests to send to yet another district. Fortunately the Divine Word Missionaries, SVD, was generous enough to send their priests to make up for the vacancy. In fact, one of these parish communities in Nagaoka, Fukuzumi Church was started by SVDs in 1929. Well, at that time, entire diocese was under the pastoral care of  SVD. Then after the WWII, Franciscans were asked to take over the Nagaoka district from SVD with 8 communities. In 1963, Omotemachi was established as the district house for Franciscans and later promoted to be an independent parish community. So this could be said as the "Return of SVD in Nagaoka". I just hope and wish the SVD will continue to consider Nagaoka Church as one of their mission options in Japan for next few more years.

Between these two parishes, there are JR rail lines which separate the city to east side and west side. Fukuzumi is in the east side and Omotemachi for the west. Distance between these two parishes are only 1 km. It was almost impossible to maintain two communities with two separate church buildings with quite a small number of the memberships. Both communities have less than 100 attendance of Sunday liturgies at best and will be impossible to make enough contributions to maintain both parishes since majority are quite advanced in their age.

The diocese have tried a long time ago to discuss the possibility to amalgamate two communities in the past but failed to come to the consensus.  This time, reality of departure of Franciscan Fathers prompted both communities to take time to discern their respective future vision.

I really thank entire members of two communities, and especially lay leaders of them, to take enough time to listen carefully opinions of every members on the future of their communities and came out with positive answer to amalgamate two and make complete new community.

On 5 January, I presided over the Thanksgiving Mass with their parish priest, Fr. Kamimura, SVD, and the associate, Fr. Lorenzo, SVD, to ask God for his blessings and guidance over the new community in Nagaoka. (N.B. Sunday Mass in Nagaoka Catholic Church is at 9:30am and 6pm.)