Tokyo (AsiaNews) - The great earthquake and nuclear incident of 11 March 2011 have caused pain and suffering, but also taught us how strong hope can be in man. Let us start again from this point in order to set out on the journey behind Jesus Christ, and follow the guidelines of the pope in renewing our faith. This is the essence of the message issued by the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Japan for the Year of Faith. What follows is the text of their message.
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Responding to the appeal of Pope Benedict XVI in his Apostolic Letter Porta Fidei, today we start our journey of the Year of Faith together with the Catholic Church throughout the world.
In current Japanese society, a large number of people live with anxieties and suffering due to various problems such as a declining birth rate and an aging population, economic stagnation, problems in human relations and families, bullying, suicides, and the issue of nuclear plants. It can be said that our society is filled with unvoiced cries calling for the meaning of life and salvation. Under such circumstances, we who have received the precious gift of faith are invited to witness to that faith in our words and deeds while "choosing to stand with the Lord so as to live with him" (Porta Fidei, 10).
Let us question anew how we are living the joy of faith and embracing hope and love through our faith. Although the Great East Japan Earthquake and the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant Accident of March 11, 2011 resulted in numerous victims, afflicted persons and evacuees, they also offered us opportunities to deeply question anew how our faith and way of life ought to be. Many parishes and lay faithful around the country have been engaged in reconstruction assistance in the afflicted areas where the number of Catholics is small. Although we went there with an intention to help the afflicted people as much as possible, we have been rather often taught by them "the importance of being side by side with others", "the joy of living together" and "a hope for the future". Through such experiences, we strongly feel that God gives a new light to our faith.
Throughout this Year of Faith, we are invited on a journey to re-examine the grace of faith. First of all, let us devote ourselves to deepening our faith through prayer, the Word of God (Scripture) and the Mass. This path of faith is not one to be followed alone. The laity, religious, priests and we bishops are followers of the same path of faith. Let us enter the "door of faith" anew with humility and courage, supporting and encouraging one another.
Our Lord Jesus who is "the way and the truth and the life" (John14:6) is "the leader and perfecter of faith" (Heb 12:2), as well as the best leader of our faith. Let us follow our Lord Jesus and go on the journey of faith together in hope.
Invoking the intercession of Mary, Mother of God, we pray that our Lord Jesus Christ will protect and guide our steps.