04/15/2005, 00.00
VATICAN-CONCLAVE-JAPAN

Card Shirayanagi, working for peace and dialogue with China

The Japanese prelate has apologised for the crimes of the Japanese Church during the war and has always sought a dialogue "with all the Catholics of China".

Vatican City (AsiaNews) – Card Peter Seiichi Shirayanagi, Archbishop emeritus of Tokyo (Japan), was born in Hachioji, on June 17 1928. He was ordained priest in 1954, made Auxiliary Bishop of Tokyo in 1966, and created and proclaimed Cardinal in 1994, of the Title of S. Emerenziana in Tor Fiorenza

He chaired the Japanese Catholic Bishops' Conference (JCBC) from 1983 to 1992 and founded the Episcopal Commission for Justice and Peace to deal with social issues such as refugees.

In 1986, the Federation of Asian Catholic Bishops' Conferences held its Fourth General Assembly in Tokyo, where for the first time, as JCBC President, Archbishop Shirayanagi acknowledged the war guilt of the Japanese Catholic Church to the Asian Bishops attending the solemn Mass celebrated at St Mary's Cathedral in Tokyo.

In 1989, he organised a visit by a group of priests, sisters and lay people to the Catholic Church of China in order to meet Chinese Catholics from both the official and the underground Church.

He sought to meet Communist Party officials to seek forgiveness for all the sins committed by the Japanese Imperial Army against the Chinese people and the Catholic Church in China.

"It is an opportunity," he said, "to promote solidarity among all Catholics [. . .], alleviate the sufferings caused by the Church's internal division, and help rebuild Catholic churches, seminaries and institutes of women religious".

In 2000, after violent protests in Beijing against the canonisation of 120 Chinese martyrs, he said during a special solemn mass: "It is for us a great pain to see this event, which should be received with great joy for the Church in China, cause such a negative reaction. It is equally painful to see the canonised martyrs treated 'as conspirators of an aggressive imperialism'.

In November 2000, Pope John Paul II sent Cardinal Shirayanagi a message for the celebration of the World Conference of Religions for Peace held in Kyoto 30 years earlier.

In the message, John Paul II said: "Your efforts, which are designed to help the victims of hatred and violence, express a truth that I, too, have tried to reaffirm on several occasions, namely that religion is not and should not be a pretext for hostility towards others, especially where religious, cultural and ethnic identities coincide".

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