Changing Face of Catholic Church in Japan Amid Nation’s Existential Crisis

(National Catholic Register. Victor Gaetan).

At peak cherry blossom season in April, I spent 14 beautiful days exploring the Catholic Church in Japan by wing and foot, metro and bullet train. I began with Archbishop Tarcisius Isao Kikuchi at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Tokyo on the eve of his ad limina visit with Pope Francis in Rome and ended with a prominent Shinto priest, Mitsui Shinsaku, who will attend a September peace conference organized by the Community of Sant’Egidio.  Statistics alone say little. Out of a population of approximately 125 million people, about 536,000 are Catholic. Another 500,000 Catholics work in Japan, sometimes for many years. Fifteen dioceses including three archdioceses (Nagasaki, Osaka, and Tokyo) embrace 850 parishes served by one seminary. Delicate and unbreakable … humble and proud … Japanese culture and society balance oppositions. Among so many impressions, I distilled four realities about the Catholic Church in the Land of the Rising Sun to share: New Catholics are part of an increasingly multi-cultural society; Catholic schools magnify Church influence; Jesuits brought the faith to Japan in 1549 and still have clout; and peace is a shared agenda fusing Vatican and Japanese worldviews. 

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