Tokyo (AsiaNews) "For us Japanese Catholics, he was like a father". It was with these words that Cardinal Peter Shirayanagi, archbishop emeritus of Tokyo, commented about the death of Pope John Paul II to the news broadcast of the NKH television station. Meanwhile, video footage of the Pope's visit to Japan in 1981 was being screened.
The first broadcast of the Japanese television station dedicated the opening fifteen minutes to the death of the pontiff: right away, the phrase of Mgr Sandri was translated: "He has returned to the house of the Father", while live on the screen from St Peter's square was a caption which read: "Fukai, kanashimi; inori", meaning "profound sorrow, sadness and prayer".
In particular, the papal visit to Japan was recalled, with images of the Pope in Hiroshima and his words in the prayer for peace in the Japanese language (in nearly perfect pronunciation): "War is death".
In the live broadcast, the considerable role of the Pontiff in bringing about the fall of soviet communism was recalled, as well as the assassination attempt against him in St Peter's Square, his visit to Jerusalem, his commitment to inter-religious dialogue, and his opposition to war in Iraq. On Saturday night, Japanese television had aired footage of Chinese Catholics gathered in the Cathedral of Peking to pray for the Pope.
There are around one million Catholics in Japan, half of them are foreigners.