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Friday, March 20, 2015

The Pope on the importance of the “hidden Christians” of Japan

Vatican City, 20 March 2015 (VIS) – “Though the Catholic community is small, your local Churches are esteemed by Japanese society for your many contributions, born of your Christian identity, which serve people regardless of religion. I commend your many efforts in the fields of education, healthcare, service to the elderly, infirm, and handicapped, and your charitable works which have been especially important in response to the tragic devastation wrought by the earthquake and tsunami four years ago. So too I express deep appreciation for your initiatives in favour of peace, especially your efforts to keep before the world the immense suffering experienced by the people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of the Second World War seventy years ago. In all of these works, you not only meet the needs of the community, but you also create opportunities for dialogue between the Church and society”.

The Holy Father thus addressed the prelates of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Japan at the end of their “ad Limina” visit, who this month celebrate the “discovery” fifty years ago of the “hidden Christians” of Japan, a central theme of the written discourse the Pope handed to them this morning.

He writes, “The Church in Japan has experienced abundant blessings but has equally known suffering. From those joys and sorrows, your ancestors in the faith have bequeathed to you a living heritage that adorns the Church today and encourages her journey toward the future. This heritage is rooted in the missionaries who first reached your shores and proclaimed the Word of God, Jesus Christ. We think especially of Saint Francis Xavier. ... For many of these missionaries, as well as for some of the first members of the Japanese Catholic community, their witness to Christ led to the shedding of their blood. … We recall especially Saint Paul Miki and companions whose steadfast faith in the midst of persecution became an encouragement for the small Christian community to persevere in every trial”.

Another aspect of this rich patrimony is the discovery of the “hidden Christians” - those who conserved the Christian faith after all the lay missionaries and priests had been expelled from the country. “The embers of faith which the Holy Spirit ignited through the preaching of these evangelisers and sustained by the witness of the martyrs were kept safe, through the care of the lay faithful who maintained the Catholic community’s life of prayer and catechesis in the midst of great danger and persecution”.

“These two pillars of Catholic history in Japan, missionary activity and the 'hidden Christians',continue to support the life of the Church today, and offer a guide to living the faith. In every age and land, the Church remains a missionary Church, seeking to evangelise and make disciples of all nations, while continually enriching the faith of the community of believers and instilling in them the responsibility to nurture this faith in the home and society”.

The work of evangelisation, however, “is not the sole responsibility of those who leave their homes and go to distant lands to preach the Gospel. In fact, by our baptism, we are all called to be evangelisers and to witness to the Good News of Jesus wherever we are. We are called to go forth, to be an evangelising community, even if that simply means opening the front door of our homes and stepping out into our own neighbourhoods. … If our missionary efforts are to bear fruit, the example of the 'hidden Christians' has much to teach us. Though small in number and daily facing persecution, these believers were able to preserve the faith by being attentive to their personal relationship with Jesus, a relationship built on a solid prayer life and a sincere commitment to the welfare of the community. … The 'hidden Christians' of Japan remind us that the work of fostering the life of the Church and of evangelising require the full and active participation of the lay faithful. Their mission is twofold: to engage in the life of the parish and local Church, and to permeate the social order with their Christian witness”.

Through the witness of faith of the Japanese faithful, “the Church expresses her genuine catholicity and shows the ‘beauty of her varied face’”, the Pope concludes, citing his apostolic exhortation “Evangelii Gaudium”. “So often, when we find this witness lacking, it is not because the faithful do not want to be missionary disciples, but rather because they think themselves incapable of the task. I encourage you as Pastors to instil in them a deep appreciation of their calling and to offer them concrete expressions of support and guidance so that they may answer this call with generosity and courage”.

Pope Francis: the death penalty is inadmissible

Vatican City, 20 March 2015 (VIS)- This morning the Holy Father received in audience a delegation from the International Commission against the Death Penalty. Below we offer extensive extracts from the letter the Pope gave to Federico Mayor, president of the Commission, to greet and offer his personal thanks to all the members of the aforementioned International Commission, the group of countries that lend their support, and all those who collaborate in its work.

“I would like to take this opportunity to share with you some reflections on what the Church contributes to the humanistic efforts of the Commission. The Church's Magisterium, based on the Sacred Scripture and the thousand-year experience of the People of God, defends life from conception to natural end, and supports full human dignity inasmuch as it represents the image of God. Human life is sacred as, from its beginning, from the first instant of conception, it is the fruit of God's creating action”.

“States kill when they apply the death penalty, when they send their people to war or when they carry out extrajudicial or summary executions. They can also kill by omission, when they fail to guarantee to their people access to the bare essentials for life. … On some occasions it is necessary to repel an ongoing assault proportionately to avoid damage caused by the aggressor, and the need to neutralise him could lead to his elimination; this is a case of legitimate defence. However, the presuppositions of personal legitimate defence do not apply at the social level, without risk of misinterpretation. When the death penalty is applied, it is not for a current act of aggression, but rather for an act committed in the past. It is also applied to persons whose current ability to cause harm is not current, as it has been neutralised – they are already deprived of their liberty”.

“Nowadays the death penalty is inadmissible, no matter how serious the crime committed. It is an offence against the inviolability of life and the dignity of the human person, which contradicts God's plan for man and society, and his merciful justice, and impedes the penalty from fulfilling any just objective. It does not render justice to the victims, but rather fosters vengeance”.

“For the rule of law, the death penalty represents a failure, as it obliges the state to kill in the name of justice. … Justice can never be wrought by killing a human being. … With the application of the death penalty, the convict is denied the possibility of to repent or make amends for the harm caused; the possibility of confession, by which a man expresses his inner conversion, and contrition, the gateway to atonement and expiation, to reach an encounter with God's merciful and healing justice. It is furthermore frequently used by totalitarian regimes and groups of fanatics for the extermination of political dissidents, minorities, and any subject labelled as 'dangerous' or who may be perceived as a threat to its power or to the achievement of its ends”.

“The death penalty is contrary to the sentiment of humanitas and to divine mercy, which must be the model for human justice. … There is discussion in some quarters about the method of killing, as if it were possible to find ways of 'getting it right'. … But there is no humane way of killing another person”.

“On the other hand, life imprisonment entails for the prisoner the impossibility of planning a future of freedom, and may therefore be considered as a sort of covert death penalty, as they deprive detainees not only of their freedom, but also of hope. However, although the penal system can stake a claim to the time of convicted persons, it can never claim their hope”.

“Dear friends, I encourage you to continue with your work, as the world needs witnesses of God's mercy and tenderness, and may the Lord Jesus grant the gift of wisdom, so that the action taken against this cruel punishment may be successful and fruitful”.

Press release from the Dean of the College of Cardinals

Vatican City, 20 March 2015 (VIS) – The Holy Father has accepted the resignation of the rights and privileges of a Cardinal, expressed in canons 349, 353 and 356 of the Code of Canon Law, presented by His Eminence Cardinal Keith Michael Patrick O'Brien, archbishop emeritus of St. Andrews and Edinburgh, after a long period of prayer. With this provision, His Holiness would like to manifest his pastoral solicitude to all the faithful of the Church in Scotland, and to encourage them to continue with hope the path of renewal and reconciliation.

Pope's telegram for terrorist attack in Tunisia

Vatican City, 20 March 2015 (VIS) – Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin has sent a telegram of condolences on behalf of the Holy Father to the Archbishop of Tunis, Ilario Antoniazzi, for the victims of the terrorist attack on 18 March.

“Having learned of the grave terrorist attack on the city of Tunis, which caused numerous deaths and injuries, Pope Francis reiterates his strong condemnation of any act against peace and the sacredness of human life, and joins in prayer with the suffering of the families who mourn their loved ones and all those affected by this tragedy, as well as with all the Tunisian people. He asks the Lord to welcome the departed in His peace and to comfort those who are seriously injured. As a pledge of consolation, the Pope asks that God might grant His abundant blessings to all".


Vatican City, 20 March 2015 (VIS) – Today, the Holy Father received in audience:

- Archbishop Rino Fisichella, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelisation

- Sixteen prelates of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Japan, on their “ad Limina” visit:

- Archbishop Joseph Mitsuaki Takami of Nagasaki;

- Bishop Dominic Ryoji Miyahara of Fukuoka;

- Bishop Paul Kenjiro Koriyama of Kagoshima;

- Bishop Berard Toshio Oshikawa of Naha;

- Bishop Paul Sueo Hamaguchi of Oita;

- Archbishop Thomas Aquino Manyo Maeda of Osaka, with his auxiliary, Bishop Michael Goro Matsuura;

- Bishop Paul Yoshinao Otsuka of Kyoto;

- Bishop Augustinus Jun-ichi Nomura of Nagoya;

- Bishop John Eijiro Suwa of Takamatsu;

- Archbishop Peter Takeo Okada of Tokyo, apostolic administrator “sede vacante et ad nutum Sanctae Sedis” of Saitama, with his auxiliary, Bishop James Kazuo Koda;

- Bishop Tarcisius Isao Kikuchi of Niigata;

- Bishop Bernard Taiji Katsuya of Sapporo;

- Bishop Martin Tetsuo Hiraga of Sendai; and

- Bishop Rafael Masahiro Umemura of Yokohama.

- Cardinal Marc Ouellet, prefect of the Congregation for Bishops.

Other Pontifical Acts

Vatican City, 20 March 2015 (VIS) – The Holy Father has:

- appointed Rev. Fr. Mario Eduardo Dorsonville-Rodriguez as auxiliary of the archdiocese of Washington, (area 5,447, population 2,824,893, Catholics 621,476, priests 793, permanent deacons 246, religious 1,176), U.S.A. The bishop-elect was born in 1960 in Bogota, Colombia, and was ordained a priest in 1985. He holds a licentiate in theology from the Pontifical Xaverian University of Bogota and a D.Min. from the Catholic University of America, Washington. In Bogota, he served as deputy priest and parish priest, associate chaplain and professor of ethics at the Universidad Nacional de Colombia, and professor of pastoral counsel and catechesis at the major seminary of Bogota. In Washington, he has served as deputy priest and is currently director of the “Spanish Catholic Centre”, vice president for the Mission of Catholic Charities, adjunct spiritual director at the St. John Paul II Seminary, and member of the college of consultors and the presbyteral council.

- reorganised the Hungarian Greek-Catholic Church, elevating it to the status of “sui iuris Metropolitan Church, by the following measures:

- elevation of the eparchy of Hajdudorog for Catholics of Byzantine rite (Cathlics 270,000, priests 190, permanent deacons 4, religious 13) to a metropolis, with its seat in Debrecen, appointing eparchal Bishop Fulop Kocsis as the first Metropolitan;

- elevation of the apostolic exarchate of Miskolc (Catholics 56,200, priests 70) for Catholics of Byzantine rite to the status of eparchy, making it a suffragan of the metropolitan see of Hajdudorog, appointing Msgr. Atanaz Orosz, formerly apostolic exarch of Miskolc, as the first eparchal bishop;

- erection of the eparchy of Nyiregyhaza for Catholics of Byzantine rite, with territory taken from the eparchy of Hajdudorog, making it a suffragan of the metropolitan see of Hajdudorog, appointing Bishop Atanaz Orosz as apostolic administrator “sede vacante”.

On Thursday, 19 March, the Holy Father:

- appointed Msgr. Vlastimil Krocil as bishop of Ceske Budejovice (area 12,500, population 760,600, Catholics 291,700, priests 136, permanent deacons 19, religious 164), Czech Republic. The bishop-elect was born in Brno, Czech Republic in 1961 and was ordained a priest in 1994. Following studies at the Pontifical Lateran University and the Pontifical Gregorian University, Rome, he obtained a degree in theology and philosophy from the Catholic University of Ruzomberok, Slovakia. He has served as chaplain in Jindrichuv Hradec, and is currently professor of patrology and early Christian literature in the faculty of theology at Ceske Budejovice, parish administrator at Veseli nad Luznici, member of the presbyteral council and the college of consultors, and diocesan representative for pastoral ministry.

- erected the diocese of Nogales, Mexico, with territory from the archdiocese of Hermosillo, Mexico, making it a suffragan of the same archdiocese.

- appointed Bishop Jose Leopoldo Gonzalez Gonzalez, auxiliary of the archdiocese of Guadalajara, Mexico, as bishop of the new diocese of Nogales (area 44,243, population 483,180, Catholics 381,398, priests 44, religious 62), Mexico.

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