03/25/2016, 10.15
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Two executions in Japan. Msgr. Kikuchi: If you invite Pope Francis, you should also listen to him

by Tarcisio Isao Kikuci

This morning the Minister of Justice confirmed the hanging of a serial killer and a nurse, who killed patients for the insurance money. The bishop of Niigata and President of Caritas Asia: "It is very sad that this happens in the Paschal Triduum, and moreover on Good Friday. But the attitude of the government is especially surprising. They seriously and insistently invite Francis to the country, but totally ignore his appeals for a moratorium on the death penalty".

Niigata (AsiaNews) - The Japanese government has confirmed this morning the execution of two death row inmates. Junko Oshida, a former nurse of 56 years, is the fifth woman to die on the scaffold Japanese since 1950: she was charged with the murder of two people for their life insurance. Yasutoshi Kamata, 75, was a serial killer: between 1985 and 1994 he killed five people, including a girl of 9.

On the issue of the death penalty, AsiaNews has asked Msgr. Tarcisio Isao Kikuchi, Bishop of Niigata and President of Caritas Asia for a comment. He recalls "the vast majority are in favor of executions" but forcefully recalls the appeal of Pope Francis for the abolition of this form of judicial punishment. He reminds the Government that there is no point in inviting the pontiff to the country, if they will not listen to him. Below the full text of Msgr. Kikuchi’s comments:

On this very sacred period for us Christians, Paschal Triduum, and particular on Good Friday, it is quite unfortunate to note that Japanese government has executed two convicted people this morning. It is also unfortunate to note that the Japanese government has record of executing 4 convicted people on the Christmas day in 2006.

Though I know, according to the government explanation on the issue,  the quite majority of general public in Japan supports government position on maintaining death penalty and, I know, quite number of Catholics in Japan also support this position. Therefore it is not easy task to realize Japan without death penalty and it seems almost impossible to abolish this system.

However, we, as member of one body of Jesus Christ, should give heed to our Shepard, Holy Father, on this particular issue. On 21 February this year after the Angelus, Holy Father appealed again to abolish death penalty.    Holy Father said that “the commandment ‘You shall not kill’ has absolute value, and covers both the innocent and the guilty.” Then he continued saying “I appeal to the conscience of the rulers, so that we achieve an international consensus for the abolition of the death penalty.”

This call for abolishing death penalty has been repeated by previous Pontiffs despite the official teachings of Catholic Church do not forbid it.

But for Pope Francis, it is much more than repeating the same appeal as his predecessor. This is the Jubilee Year of Mercy.  So he appealed to the world leaders saying “I propose to those among them who are Catholics to make a courageous and exemplary gesture that no sentence is executed in this Holy Year of Mercy.”

It is true that Japan is not Christian country and our government is very much secular government with strict separation of religion and state. And it is true that our national leader is not a Catholic, though the number 2 in the cabinet is. And it is true that the execution is decided by minister of Justice who is also not a Catholic. So they have no obligation to consider Holy Father's appeal. However, only a few days ago on 19 March, foreign minister of Japan, Mr. Kishida, paid a visit to the Holy See and met with Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, Secretary for Relations with States of the Holy See, inviting Holy Father to visit Japan to pray for Peace in Asia and the World. When thinking about the seriousness and insistence of Japanese government to invite Holy Father to Japan, for which Japanese Bishops are also working on, I am a bit surprised to note the timing of today's execution. In any case, despite popular support for the death penalty in Japan, I have to repeat the appeal of Holy Father to abolish the death penalty in respect of human life.


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