Tokyo (Agenzia Fides) – Tomorrow Sunday 17 September, Cardinal Fernando Filoni, prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples, will arrive in Japan for a pastoral visit which will conclude on 26 September. The Cardinal’s busy agenda starts Monday 18 with the first stop at Fukuoka, to visit the Seminary there, deliver a discourse and celebrate Mass. The following day in Nagasaki, the cardinal will meet priests, religious men and women and lay faithful and after visiting important venues in the city. He will meet pre-seminarians and aspirants and conclude the day with Mass celebrated in the Cathedral.
On 20 September, after talking with the bishops of the Nagasaki region, Cardinal Filoni will go to Hiroshima, and after a visit to the Peace Memorial (atom bomb disaster), he will meet priests, religious and lay Catholics followed by the celebration of Mass in the Cathedral.
Friday 22 September the Prefect of Propaganda Fide will be taken to see the sites of the earthquake and Sunami at Sendai and celebrate Mass in the Cathedral. Saturday 23, in Tokyo, he will deliver a discourse and celebrate Mass. Sunday 24 the morning will include a visit to Sophia University , a meeting in the afternoon with priests, religious and lay people and the celebration of Mass in the Cathedral with the bishops of Japan. On Monday 25 the Cardinal will give a talk and then dialogue with the Bishops. The following day he will depart for Rome.
Fides spoke with Divine Word missionary Bishop Isao Kikuchi, who cares for the diocese of Niigata and is chairman of Caritas Japan: “We are very happy about the visit – the Bishop said- this is the first time that Cardinal Filoni comes to Japan. We hope his presence will serve as encouragement for our small Catholic community. The Cardinal will have the opportunity to see the reality of the Church in Japan and also the Japanese society. He will visit different dioceses and communities, lead prayers for peace at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, visit areas affected by the tsunami, and view the work of assistance and rehabilitation promoted by Caritas. I believe, that most important, will be his encounter with our seminarians to confirm and encourage them on their vocational journey”.
The Bishop mentioned some principal challenges for Church in Japan: “We are experiencing ageing, of society in general and of our people and our workers, and this makes our parishes more difficult to run; most demanding is a growing presence of Catholics among immigrants from various countries whose pastoral care is an urgent and necessary task; there is the decline in the number of vocations to the priesthood and to the religious and consecrated life. This phenomenon has sociological and anthropological roots and reflects what is happening in our Japanese society where the space for religious practice is ever smaller in the frenetic life style of our day”. “It is our hope that the visit by the Cardinal Prefect of Propaganda Fide to our country will shine like a light on our path: we welcome him as a sign of God’s blessing and His will for us”, concludes Bishop Isao Kikuchi.
According to the latest edition of the Annual of Catholic Church Statistics, Japan has a population of 126,958,000 of whom 544,000 are Catholics. There are 16 ecclesiastical circumscriptions, 3 metropolitan archdioceses (Nagasaki, Osaka and Tokyo) and 13 dioceses, with 870 parishes. The Church serves the people through 26 bishops, 532 diocesan priests, 914 religious priests, 26 permanent deacons , 190 brothers, 5,334 women religious, 1,645 catechists, 40 minor seminarians, and 87 major seminarians. (PA/SL) (Agenzia Fides 16/9/2017)