Tokyo (AsiaNews) The Episcopal Commission for Social Issues has urged Catholics not to visit the Yasukuni Shrine, where the remains of some the worst war criminals of World War Two are buried. In a booklet signed by the archbishop of Tokyo, Mgr Takeo Okada, the faithful are told that it is "impossible to say there is nothing to hinder" Catholics' visiting Yasukuni Shrine even in a private capacity".
Titled The Position of the Catholic Church Before, During and after the War, the booklet points out that the Church and Japanese society have undergone profound changes since 1936, when the Vatican Congregation Pro Propaganda Fide allowed Catholic schools to be compelled as part of the school curriculum to pay their respects at national Shinto Shrines.
Today there is no longer a state religion and the constitution does not recognise the possibility of one; therefore, there is no justification in visiting Yasukuni to pay one's respect to the dead.
"The shrine," the booklet reads, "is dedicated only to those who died fighting for the glory of the emperor in wartime. Isn't honouring these men somehow glorifying war? Does it not give this impression to the people of the nations that were invaded?"
The Church does not deny of love of country, but also warns of the danger in emphasizing this to the exclusion of neighbouring nations. Instead: "Love your neighbouring country as you love your own."
Visits to the shrine by former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi when he was in office have been met with hostilities by other Asian nations, especially by China and South Korea.
Popular resentment against expressions of Japanese imperialism in the 20th century and crimes committed by the Imperial Japanese Army during the country's various wars of invasion have been especially significant and have turned violent at times.