Rome (AsiaNews) – At least 30,000 people took part this morning in the beatification of 188 Japanese martyrs in Nagasaki’s Big N-Baseball stadium. They included delegations from the Churches of Korea, Philippines and South-East Asia. The ceremony was led by Card José Saraiva Martins, a representative of Pope Benedict XVI and former Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.
Under pouring rain Cardinal Saraiva Martins said that martyrdom was an element ever-present in the history of the Church, something that accompanied the lives of the faithful.
The new blessed martyrs died between 1606 and 1639, but anti-Christian persecution lasted for more than two centuries in Japan.
Some of the martyrs died on the cross; others were drowned, burnt or beheaded.
AsiaNews asked Fr Giorgio Ferrari, a PIME missionary in Japan for the past 17 years, a few questions about them.
What value does the Japanese Church place in this beatification?
I explained to my parishioners in Miura (Tokyo) the value of martyrdom and told how important this event was. It is the most important thing for the Japanese Church, second only to John Paul II’s visit in 1981. Catholics are edified and proud of this event.
At times the Japanese Church seems involved more in dialogue with religions and with society, papering over differences. These martyrs remind us that faith and the world can be in conflict . . . .
This is an element that we highlight in our catechesis to parishioners. For their part their raise questions and show wonderment that these martyrs could give their life for Jesus Christ.
Does the beatification resonate with the Japanese population?
Today in Japan people are looking for strong values. Every day they are faced with painful problems like suicide, youth crime, families in crisis, a declining economy . . . . All this tends to undermine old certainties and brings people to seek out values that seem more stable and challenging. People are truly seeking God. The beatification of the martyrs can offer an answer to this desire for the truth in life.