» 03/29/2012, 00.00
"Death penalty could destroy Japan", Nagasaki archbishop says
Mgr Joseph Mitsuaki Takami talks to AsiaNews about the decision of Japan's Justice minister to uphold three death sentences. Japanese society, he said, "believes in an 'eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth', but its blind spot on the issue could harden its soul." By contrast, "The Church has always fought for a culture of life. We are trying to get the government to abolish the death penalty."
Nagasaki (AsiaNews) - Japanese
society "believes in an 'eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth', but its blind spot
on the issue could harden its soul," said Mgr Joseph Mitsuaki Takami. The archbishop
of Nagasaki spoke to AsiaNews about a
recent decision by Japan's Justice minister to uphold three death sentences. "I
cannot comment about the individual cases because the details are not known,
but the battle against the death penalty must continue," he added.
The three death row inmates were
executed today, almost two years from the last executions in July 2010. The prisoners,
hanged in separate prisons, had all been convicted of multiple murders.
Justice Minister Toshio Ogawa noted
that 80 per cent of the Japanese public supports capital punishment. Still,
hangings have always proved to be controversial in the country.
The Catholic Church has always
opposed the practice. "All Japanese bishops are for the abolition of the death
penalty. There are no differences of opinion. Even if the person who is killed
is a murderer, his death is another murder, by the state this time. Humanity must
renew its sense of living together. We must all consider ourselves children of
"It is not only about
philosophical or religious arguments," Mgr Takami said. "We must consider the
fact that imposing the death penalty entails the most demanding decision a man
can take. Japan's legal system is not perfect. Juridical errors are possible. Many
have occurred in the past, and no one can come back from hanging."
The archbishop of Nagasaki has
been fighting for years to see love blossom again in the life of the country. "I
and the other members of the Bishops' Conference have published a book titled 'Looking
at life'. In it, we call on Japan to rediscover the importance and the beauty
of God's most important gift and stop mortifying man."
However, Mgr Tanaki agrees with the
government on one account. "Until now, a majority of Japanese have been in
favour of the death penalty. 'Eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth' is the
prevailing mindset. However, in so doing society's blind spot on the issue could
harden its soul. It is sad to say but this is how most Japanese think, especially
victims' families who clamour for the death penalty. I can empathise with them but
they are wrong."
Within the Bishops' Conference, some
members are "engaged in a study and prayer session to encourage the government
to abolish the death penalty. It will be a hard battle to fight but we cannot
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Justice Minister Katsutoshi Kaneda ordered the executions, the 18th and 19th since Prime Minister Shinzo Abe came to power in December 2012, carried out without prior notice to family and lawyers. Japan’s Catholic bishops are a leading voice against the death penalty. Amnesty International complains that one of the prisoners had asked for a retrial. The other had given up on his defence.
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April 23, after 15 years three men guilty of multiple murders, were hanged. The death decrees signed at the weekend to avoid criticism from the opposition. The return of the death penalty, perhaps as a method to empty prisons.
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During the pastoral visit of Card. Fernando Filoni, Prefect of Propaganda Fide, to the Land of the Rising Sun, Pope Francis urges the bishops and the Japanese Church to renew their missionary commitment to society, marked by suicides, divorces, religious formalism, material and spiritual poverty. The request to collaborate with ecclesial movements, perhaps in memory of the controversy with the Neocatechumenal Way.
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