05/26/2006, 00.00
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Japanese Catholics donate statues of St Francis Xavier to Goa and Malacca

To mark the 500th anniversary of the saint's birth, a Catholic association of Kagoshima has commissioned a group of bronze statues to recall the encounter of the protector of missionaries with the Japanese people.

Kagoshima (AsiaNews/JCW) – Members of the St Francis Xavier Memorial Association in Kagoshima, in the north of the island of Kyûshû, have donated a set of bronze statues to Malaysia and India. The aim is to commemorate the first encounter between St Francis Xavier and a Japanese man named Yajiro.

Yajiro, a young man from Kagoshima, met the protector of missionaries in Malacca in 1548. Fascinated by his faith and his personality, he decided to follow him and to help him in his travels in Japan. Traditionally, this encounter marks the meeting between the Church and the Japanese people.

The association decided to have the statues sculpted and donated in 1999, when the Church in Malacca sent a letter to Kagoshima, asking if they could celebrate together the 450th anniversary of the Jesuit saint's arrival in Japan. There was also an expressed desire to "deepen the exchange" between the two churches, united by St Francis.

Members of the association visited Malacca in 2005 and in December of the same year, decided to commission the statues to send to Goa too, where the mortal remains of the saint are preserved. They are exact copies of a group of statues found in Xavier Park in Kagoshima.

Toshihiro Nanaeda, chairperson of the committee, said: "A week-long commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the birth of St Francis Xavier will take place in Malacca and Goa: We hope we will be able to send the statues on time for this joyous celebration."

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