Nagasaki (AsiaNews) - Pope Francis "loves love Japan, which loves him back. On several occasions when he was still a bishop and a cardinal, the pontiff spoke about his desire of becoming a missionary here. As head of the Diocese of Buenos Aires, he sent many priests to help us evangelise the Land of the Rising Sun. Now we are waiting to thank him," said Mgr Joseph Mitsuaki Takami, archbishop of Nagasaki, as he spoke to AsiaNews.
Several initiatives are planned for the Japanese Church, the prelate said. "In 2015, we will celebrate the 150th anniversary of the meeting between Fr Thadée Bernard Petitjean, a French-born bishop and vicar for Japan, with Japanese Catholics who had been worshipping underground for 200 years. Next year, we will hold our first diocesan synod and are thus preparing for the event. Everything that we are doing at present is part of this preparation. And we would love to have the Holy Father among us."
The year 2015 "will also be the 400th anniversary of the death of a samurai, who was much beloved during his lifetime. He had embraced our faith, and lost everything for this, including his life," the archbishop said. "We hope we can start his process of beatification; this is a good time to do so. Again, we hope for Pope Francis's support."
For his part, the pope has repeatedly shown his closeness to Japan. "Like so many Jesuits before and after him, he wanted to be sent here in mission. Adolfo Nicolás, the current superior general of the Society of Jesus, has lived in the Far East since 1964, mostly in Tokyo, where he has taught theology at Sophia University and where he was Jesuit provincial for Japan. Our pope once came to Japan to find the priests he had sent here. One of them is here in Nagasaki. His name is Renzo de Luca. He is of Italian origin and teaches the history of Christianity in Japan. "
(Pictured, then Bishop Bergoglio in the late 1980s celebrating Mass, in Nagano Prefecture, Japan)