Rabaul (AsiaNews) - Japan "has done terrible things during
the last war" and especially "deprived the Blessed Peter To Rot of
his precious life. Ideological and religious differences are not an excuse, and
that is why the Japanese
Church apologizes", writes the president of the Japanese Episcopal Conference,
Ikenaga, in a letter to the Catholic population of Papua New Guinea, gathered
to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the birth of the blessed.
celebration took place last July 7 at the shrine of Rakunai, in the province of
East New Britain. The
faithful and the clergy who met were very impressed by the sincerity of the
apology of the Japanese prelates, and applauded the letter at great length. Archbishop
Ikenaga also apologized for "the barbaric actions of the Japanese
occupation forces" in Papua New Guinea. Here
is the complete text of the letter:
the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the birth of blessed Pete To Rot, I
would like to convey a message of apology to all of you in Papua New Guinea
from Japan, which is responsible for his death.
First of all, I would like
to reflect on Blessed Peter To Rot's life for a while.
Since Oceania covers a vast
area, it is difficult for the Catholic Church to proclaim the Gospel there. When
Peter To Rot was young, missionaries were rarely seen in Oceania, so he started
to study to become a catechist. He was a model student respecting the
Sacraments, praying regularly, and working hard as a faithful.
After graduation, he was
qualified as a catechist by his bishop, and started to work earnestly at once. He
married Paula Ia Varpit, a young Catholic from a neighboring village and lived
an ideal family life.
During World War II,
Japanese troops invaded Papua new Guinea, and imprisoned priests and the
religious, whose number was already limited, in a concentration camp. He
assumed responsibility as a catechist since there was no priest around, and
devoted himself to pastoral services such as administering infant baptism and
funerals, and assisting at marriages. Japanese troops even interfered in the
Church's activities and destroyed Church buildings. They even forbade some
systems based on Catholic teaching, especially monogamy, and forced people to
return to polygamy.
However, Peter To Rot
strongly insisted about his own marriage that the original meaning of marriage
is being united by God, and it must be fulfilled only when married couples are
united as one. He decisively refused to change this view so that he was
arrested, imprisoned, tortured and killed.
Japan is not a Christian
country now and then. Catholics and Protestants in total account for only 0.09%
of its population. Therefore the views on humanity and human life are totally
different from those of Christian nations. The Japanese military during World
War II did not share the Christian view on marriage at all. Putting aside the
difference in religions and ideologies, it is true that Japan inflicted
enormous damage from a humanitarian perspective on many nations including Papua
New Guinea. Japan deprived Peter To Rot of his precious life by wielding
inhumane power at will. I convey my heartfelt apology for such conducts on the
occasion of the 100th anniversary of the life of Blessed peter To Rot. As a
Japanese bishop, I would like to offer a Mass and prayers on the anniversary