Source: Vatican Radio, VIS
This year, the Holy See and Japan are marking 75 years of their diplomatic relations.
In 1942 Japan was the first Asian country to formalise diplomatic relations with Japan. However, informal relations existed as early as 1919 when Japan agreed to a Holy See request to send an Apostolic Delegate to the country. And Japan's relations with the Catholic Church goes back much earlier, to the first Christian missionaries with the arrival of St Francis Xavier and the Jesuits in the 1540s who converted several hundred Japanese.
Today, Holy See has an Apostolic Nunciature in Tokyo, while Japan has an embassy to the Holy See in Rome. Yoshio Nakamura is the current Japanese ambassador to the Holy See. The theme of this 75th anniversary is peace. During the Second World War, Japan requested the Holy See to mediate to end the war and make peace.
A special Mass attended by more than 100 Japanese pilgrims, was celebrated on Wednesday at the Church of the Gesù in Rome, presided over by the Vatican's Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin.
On Thursday a symposium was held at the Jesuit-run Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome on the 75 years of diplomatic relations between the Holy See and Japan.
In his address to the symposium, Archbishop Paul Gallagher reflected on the long-standing bonds of friendship and collaboration between the Holy See and Japan. He recalled the special tie that exists between the Company of Jesus and the 'Empire of the Rising Sun' and the fact that the first missionary to set foot on Japanese soil was the Jesuit, Saint Francis Xavier.
He also spoke of Pope Francis' admiration of Japanese culture and wisdom and said that – on his behalf – he renews "the Apostolic See's commitment to accompany the development of the Church in Japan... and at the same time continue to collaborate with the Japanese Authorities in building an authentic culture of peace, even in today's difficult and complex international setting".
The full text of Archbishop Gallagher' address follows:
Your Eminences, Your Excellencies
Father Rector of the Gregorian University
Mr Ambassador of Japan & esteemed members of the Diplomatic Corps
Dear Professors of the University, dear Students, Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen
I happily accepted the invitation to address this word of welcome at the beginning of today's Symposium, dedicated to the historical and religious relations between Japan and the Holy See, on the occasion of the anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations. In addition, it is a personal pleasure to return to my Alma Mater, where, as a student, I followed courses in theology, spirituality and canon law.
Today, it is especially significant to reflect on the bonds of friendship and collaboration between the Holy See and Japan. For it helps us better understand that the establishment of diplomatic relations was, in fact, a formalization of the numerous cultural and religious exchanges already well underway, beginning from the second half of the 16th century.
The choice of the Gregorian University for today's event recalls the special bond between the Company of Jesus and the "Empire of the Rising Sun". We cannot forget that the first missionary to set foot on Japanese soil was the Jesuit, Saint Francis Xavier, nor that the path opened by him has never ceased to produce its fruits in knowledge, in esteem and in mutual collaboration.
In this regard, allow me to evoke here the love nurtured for Japan and its millennial culture by Father Giuseppe Pittau, Rector of Sophia University in Tokyo and later Rector of the Gregorian, who, in 1984, was inducted into the prestigious Order of the Rising Sun by Emperor Hirohito.
The Holy Father, Pope Francis, who is a great admirer of the perennial Japanese wisdom, as well as being a son of Saint Ignatius, has a special place in his heart for the Church in Japan and in the whole of Asia. In wishing this event every success, on His behalf, I want to renew the commitment of the Apostolic See to accompany, with particular attention, the development of the Church in Japan, a concrete sign of which was the recent visit to the country of Cardinal Fernando Filoni, Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of the Peoples. At the same time, the Holy See will continue to collaborate with the Japanese Authorities in building an authentic culture of peace, even in today's difficult and complex international setting.
Mr Ambassador, Fr Rector, Distinguished Authorities,
I wish firmly to underline the importance of promoting peace and disarmament, against every temptation to give way to the logic of weapons and of war. The huge toll of pain, of suffering and of death that Japan was forced to experience during the course of the Second World War, especially at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, serves as a continuous warning to humankind.
Last January, during my visit to Japan, after having visited the Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, and the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Fumio Kishida, in Tokyo, I had the honour to travel to Hiroshima and to spend a moment in prayer before the "Peace Memorial". The words that Pope Saint John Paul II spoke there during his historic visit to Japan in 1981 came to my mind. The Pontiff made this appeal: "To Heads of State and of Government, to those who exercise political and economic power, I say: let us commit ourselves to peace and to justice; let us take a solemn decision, now, that war will never again be tolerated and seen as a means of resolving disputes; let us promise our counterparts that we will work tirelessly for disarmament and for the abolition of all nuclear weapons; let us replace violence and hatred with trust and concern."
I wish to repeat today, in the name of the Holy See, that prophetic invitation, so that a better future, marked by the integral development of the human person and by peace, may be assured to the young and to future generations.
I renew my best wishes to you, Mr Ambassador, and to the Japanese people. Thank you.