- The Japanese Church has finished preparing the application for the
beatification of Takayama Ukon, a feudal lord or daimyo who, after his
conversion, played a pioneering role in the spread of Christianity in Japan in
the 16th century.
The Catholic Bishops'
Conference of Japan presented a 400-page application to the Congregation for
the Causes of Saints, with all the relevant information about the case. The
bishops hope to celebrate the new Blessed in 2015, the 400th anniversary
of his death.
was born in 1552 in what is now Osaka Prefecture to Takayama Tomoteru, lord of
Sawa Castle. When he turned 12, his father converted taking the name of Darius whilst
he was baptised with the name of Justo.
Both father and
son were daimyo, feudal lords appointed by the imperial court, entitled to
raise a private army and hire samurai.
Before his conversion,
Justo practiced bushido, the "way of the warrior," a code of conduct for
the Japanese warriors.
Towards the end of
the 16th century, in the 1580s, Japan was ruled by Toyotomi
Hideyoshi, known as the country's second "great unifier".
political activity, the Takayamas come to dominate the Takatsuki region. During
the rule of the two daimyo, many local residents converted to Christianity.
In 1587, Hideyoshi
was convinced by some of his advisers to ban the 'western religion'. Whilst many
feudal lords chose to abjure their Catholic faith, Justo and his father chose
instead to give up land and honours to maintain their faith.
years, Justo Takayama lived under the protection of aristocratic friends. However,
when Christianity was definitely banned in 1614, the former daimyo chose the
path of exile and led a group of 300 Christians to the Philippines, welcomed by
Spanish Jesuits and the local Catholics, when they arrived on 21 December.
Here some exiles
proposed to seek Spanish support to overthrow the Japanese government, but Justo
On 4 February 1615,
40 days after his arrival in the Philippines, he died and was buried with full military
honours in a Catholic ceremony. Today a statue of him dominates Manila's Plaza
application is not the first time the Japanese Church has tried to
get him beatified. The first attempt was made in the 17th century by
the clergy of Manila. Unfortunately, due to the isolationist policy of the
Tokugawa shogunate, which prevented foreigners from entering Japan, it was
impossible to get the necessary documents for a canonical investigation. A second
attempt was made in 1965, but failed because of several formal errors.
application was not accepted because no one knew how to put it together nor how
to best publicise his case," said Fr Hiroaki Kawamura, head of the Diocesan
Commission that sent the papers to Rome. Learning their lessons, this time church
officials have been much better prepared.
Last October Mgr
Leo Jun Ikenaga, archbishop of Osaka and president of the Bishops' Conference
of Japan, sent a letter to Pope Benedict XVI asking for approval of the cause. The
Vatican answered, saying that it would take the cause "into special
It would do
so because the daimyo would be the first individual Japanese to receive such a
high honour. There are 42 saints with some connection to Japan
as well as 393 blessed. All of them were martyred together during the Edo
Period (1603-1867) and are celebrated as groups.
was never misled by what those around him. He persistently lived a life
following his own conscience," Fr Kawamura said. "He led a life
appropriate to a saint and continues to encourage many people even today."