12/31/2009, 00.00
VATICAN - JAPAN
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Telegram from the pope on the death of Card. Shirayanagi

The cardinal died yesterday aged 81. Benedict XVI recalled his commitment to spreading the Gospel, promoting justice and peace and for the reception of refugees.
Vatican City (AsiaNews) - Benedict XVI sent a telegram to the Archbishop of Tokyo, Mgr. Peter Takeo Okada, expressing his condolences to the entire Archdiocese for the death of the card. Peter Seiichi Shirayanagi, who died yesterday morning at the age of 81.    
 
In the message, the pope recalls his continued commitment "to spreading the Gospel, .... his work promoting justice and peace and his tireless efforts for the refugees. "    
 
The cardinal, a native of Tokyo, was ordained priest in 1954 and in 1970 became archbishop of the Japanese capital. In his ministry he worked for his country to cancel the foreign debt of poor countries, for the reception of Vietnamese refugees, for peace in a world without nuclear arms.    
 
In February '81 he welcomed John Paul II to Japan, a memorable visit for the esteem shown the head of the Catholic Church by a society where the faithful are tiny minority. Shirayanagi long sighted vision was the main driving force behind the Church in Japan for the beatification of 188 Japanese martyrs of the seventeenth century, which took place at a ceremony he presided at Nagasaki on 24 November 2008.    
 
Shirayanagi was the 4th Japanese to receive the title of cardinal. Currently among the cardinals there is no Japanese.  
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