07/28/2006, 00.00
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188 Japanese martyrs to be beatified in Nagasaki

This was decided by the Standing Committee of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Japan, to "draw near to Japan's great tragedies". A nationwide appeal for funds was launched to cover the expenses of the ceremony that should be held next May.

Tokyo (AsiaNews/JCW) – The Standing Committee of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Japan decided at their monthly meeting to celebrate the beatification ceremony of Fr Petro Kibe and his 187 companions in Nagasaki "thus drawing near to the great tragedies of the Japanese people".

The commission also appointed four bishops – Mgr Ryoji Miyahara (Oita), Osamu Mizobe (Takamatsu), Mgr Yoshinao Otsuka (Kyoto) and Mgr Mitsuaki Takami (Nagasaki) – to undertake the preparations.

The bishops launched a fund-raising appeal that will start on 1 August, with the aim of raising 30 million yen to cover the expenses. An appeal for donations by the bishops' conference was sent to dioceses, religious orders and Catholic institutions in Japan.

Fr Fernando Rojo – promoter of the canonization cause – said the ceremony will not take place before May: the historical and theological commissions of the Vatican Congregation have issued opinions in favour, but the final decision lies with the pope.

The 188 Japanese martyrs killed in the seventeenth century for their faith include priests, religious and lay people: their cause is referred to as the "beatification of Fr Petro Kassui Kibe and his 187 companions".

Fr Petro Kassui Kibe, a Jesuit priest, was a convert to Christianity. At first, he managed to escape persecution and went to Rome, where he joined the Society of Jesus and was ordained to the priesthood. He returned to Japan to minister to other oppressed Christians, but was captured, tortured and martyred in Tokyo in 1639.

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