09/04/2023, 17.43
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Tokyo mourns Bishop Mori who promoted dialogue with Japanese society

The late prelate served as auxiliary bishop alongside Archbishop Shirayanagi until 2000. For many years, he was the soul of Tokyo’s Catholic cultural centre. Very attentive to relationships with people, he said that the mission in the metropolis requires knowledge of “how to win the trust of people, touch the hearts of the Japanese,” making oneself close to those in need of hope. Archbishop Kikuchi will preside tomorrow’s funeral.

Tokyo (AsiaNews) – The Archdiocese of Tokyo is mourning the death of its auxiliary bishop emeritus, Mgr Paul Kazuhiro Mori, who passed away Saturday morning in a hospital in the Japanese capital at the age of 84.

With him goes a figure who played an important role in the not always easy interaction between the Catholic Church and Japanese society, especially in the Shinsei Kaikan, the Catholic cultural centre in Tokyo’s central Shinjuku district, which he led from 1985 until 2021.

Born in Yokohama in 1938 into a non-Catholic family, Bishop Mori was baptised in the third year of high school at a Jesuit school. He joined the Discalced Carmelites and made his perpetual vows in 1962.

Ordained a priest in 1967, ten years later he left the order and became incardinated in the diocesan clergy of Tokyo. He explained his choice in an interview with Mondo e Missione, PIME’s magazine, a few years ago.

“Once I became a priest, I understood that the relationship with others is fundamental. As I encountered social problems and became passionate about them, I saw that the way of the Carmel was not for me. This is why I became a diocesan priest."

Appointed auxiliary bishop of then-Archbishop Peter Seiichi Shirayanagi in 1985, he held this ministry for 15 years until 2000, when, to the surprise of many, he decided to retire at the age of only 62.

Since then and until 2021, he was the soul of the Shinsei Kaikan, a facility that offers a rich programme of courses in Christian culture but also opportunities for reflection and comparison with leading Japanese in order to read in depth what makes the country what it is.

For him, cultural activities are inseparable from human relationships. “Through the courses for beginners in Christianity and thanks to informal contacts with a broad range of individuals I can meet many people and have the opportunity to touch the problems of Japanese society,” he said.

“My impression is that the message of faith that the Church proposes does not always succeed in meeting people’s deep demands, their existential problems," he told Mondo e Missione in 2011, when he collaborated with the magazine writing a regular column on the Christian presence in Japan.

"When I propose the words of the Bible to my interlocutors, at first they seem to have no value; but when a friendship starts, then things change and people open up."

For Bishop Mori, it was “not about East or West. The crucial problem is knowing how to win people's trust, to touch the hearts of the Japanese. Rather than a problem of theological inculturation, I stress, it is above all about people finding a balance between faith, life and the experience of Christ in their lives.”

Speaking on the eve of Pope Francis’s trip to Japan in 2019, he said: "I have noticed a growing emptiness in people's hearts, especially in the younger generations. We face so many challenges.”

More specifically, “I am thinking, for example, about the number of suicides, the hikikomori (severe social withdrawal by young people), broken families, the crisis of certain core values of our society, the excessive competitiveness of our economic and social system.”

Against this background, “Proclaiming the Gospel for us today means being close to all these situations that need hope,” he added.

Funeral services for Bishop Kazuhiro Mori will be held tomorrow, 5 September, in Tokyo’s cathedral presided by Archbishop Tarcisius Isao Kikuchi.

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