02/28/2007, 00.00
JAPAN
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Beatification cause of 188 Japanese martyrs proceeds

The Congregation for the Causes of Saints has drawn up a petition to present to the pope. A fund-raising campaign has been launched to cover the expenses of the celebrations, which will not take place before May

Tokyo (AsiaNews) – Only the pope’s approval is needed for the beatification cause of 188 Japanese martyrs which was prepared by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints in Rome early last month. The dicastery drew up the petition which must now be evaluated and approved by the pope. According to Bishop Osamu Misobe of Takamatsu diocese, “if Pope Benedict XVI grants his approval, the date for the beatification can be scheduled. We are optimistic; I think things will move ahead quickly.”

The bishop, who heads the Episcopal Special Committee for the Cause of Japanese Martyrs, said “we have crossed a mountain. I am very optimistic.” Cardinal Fumio Hamao, who attended the meeting of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, said: "I was the one who requested the beatification. All the cardinals and bishops attending the meeting voiced approval. Preparing for the canonization ceremony in Japan will involve a lot of work, so I requested the approval as soon as possible.”

The Japanese bishops launched a fund-raising appeal that started on 1 August last year, with the aim of raising 30 million yen to cover expenses. An appeal for donations by the bishops' conference was sent to dioceses, religious orders and Catholic institutions in Japan.

Fr Fernando Rojo, promoter of the canonization cause, said the ceremony will not take place before May: the historical and theological commissions of the Vatican Congregation have issued opinions in favour, but the final decision lies with the pope.

The 188 Japanese martyrs killed in the seventeenth century for their faith include priests, religious and lay people: their cause is referred to as the "beatification of Fr Petro Kassui Kibe and his 187 companions".

Fr Petro Kassui Kibe, a Jesuit priest, was a convert to Christianity. At first, he managed to escape persecution and went to Rome, where he joined the Society of Jesus and was ordained to the priesthood. He returned to Japan to minister to other oppressed Christians, but was captured, tortured and martyred in Tokyo in 1639.

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