Nagasaki (AsiaNews) - The Year of Faith in Japan "has borne fruit," said Mgr Joseph Mitsuaki Takami, archbishop of Nagasaki. "Many Christians have rediscovered their faith thanks to Pope Francis' example and words. In my diocese, I asked people to be more committed to the sacraments. I invited people to be closer to reconciliation and recite the Nicene Creed instead of the Apostles' Creed. Let us hope that these efforts are sustained over time."
The prelate talked to AsiaNews about how the special year proclaimed by Benedict XVI was experienced in Japan. The year is set to end next Sunday, 24 November with a solemn Mass in St Peter's Square.
"Many events were organised in Osaka," he explained. "Every two months, a special prayer was recited for the success of the Year of Faith and various diocesan meetings were held to decide what to do, step by step, to make the most of this period. Here we are preparing our first diocesan synod, to be held next year."
In 2015, the Japanese Church will celebrate the 150th anniversary of the meeting between French-born Fr Thadée Bernard Petitjean, who later became bishop and vicar for Japan, and Japanese Christians who had led a catacomb-life for more than 200 years to avoid imperial persecution.
"We are carefully preparing for this event. Everything we do is part of this preparation. Because the revival of faith in Japan is a miracle that followed from this meeting."
On our journey during the Year of Faith, "we made one major effort to live our faith as much as possible in this context. I asked few things from the faithful: to pray the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed because almost everyone knew only the short form. I asked them to sing in Latin, and to receive communion with an 'amen' because so many do not say anything. To receive the Eucharist is an act of faith, and so we have to celebrate it. I asked them to receive the sacrament of reconciliation more frequently."
"My priests have written articles about the faith and history of our Church" in Nagasaki's diocesan newspaper, he noted. "We have organised events and conferences on issues and problems of faith in every parish of our diocese - we have seven suffragan districts. We have focused heavily on the catechism, on the continuous education of the faithful."
From this point of view, the pope's example has been a great help. "I believe that even here in Japan, the Francis effect has been felt. Christians are very much influenced by the Holy Father's words and attitude. He has greatly stimulated our faith. We talk a lot about him, people love him."
"The way he acts has been met with an especially favourable response among Christians and non-Christians alike. Secular Japan likes him. He shows up much more in the media, and he is often seen on television. I think the Pope has provided a stimulus to many Japanese Christians to walk and live the true faith."
As for the invitation made by the Bishops' Conference to the pope to visit the country "soon", Mgr Takami said, "We are waiting for an answer, but I can personally say that a month ago I spent a few days in Rome. I was allowed to concelebrate Mass with the pope on 9 October in Santa Marta. After Mass, I spoke with the pope and I mentioned the invitation. He did not say yes outright, but he did express satisfaction and we hope he will come."