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History of the Japanese Catholic Church

1. Christianism transmitted by Saint Francisco Xavier

Saint Francisco Xavier
His arrival to Kagoshima, and his mission.

On the feast day of Assumption, August 15 1549, *1 St. Frrancisco Xavier arrived in Kagoshima. He was accompanied by *2 a Jesuit priest, *3 Cosme deTores, *4Father John Fernandez, and *5 a Japanese named Yajiro (Anjiro).

On September 29, He visited Takahisa Shimazu, feudal lord of Satsuma(Kagoshima and asked permission for his mission. As Takahisa wished a tradewith Portugal he willingly granted the permission. At the same time, heaccomodated Xavier with a house.

Xavier, thinking to get a better result with the language, heencouraged the missionaries to study Japanese.
People got deeply impressed by their seriousness, and many of them gotbaptized. One of them was named Bernardo at the baptism. He became afaithfulcompanion of Xavier, and they travelled together to Hirato, Yamaguchi and totheCapital. In 1551 he travelled to India and to Europe with Xavier, enteredtheSociety of Jesus, and became the first Japanese Jesuit. Bernardo continuedhisstudies in Portugal, but became ill and passed away.

uring the one year of Xavier's stay in Kagoshima, about hundred people gotbaptized, and became catholic faithfuls.
Even with interpreting, it is surprising that 100 people got baptizedlisteningto Xavier who did not speak much Japanese. They must have been deeply movedbyXavier's personality.

To know about various Japanese religion, Xavier visited many temples and themonks. Especially he frequently visited the temple Sotoshu, and had friendlytalk with Todo the former chief priest of the temple in his room.

However, the antipathy of the monks grew stronger and they asked Takahisa toforbid the Christianism. Thinking about the commerce, he hesitated. In July1550, a Portuguese ship commanded by Francisco Peleira de Miranda coasted inHirato, instead of in Kagoshima. At this point, he decided the prohibitionof the Christianism.

Being unable to continue his activity, Xavier translated the catechism intoJapanese with the help of Yajiro. In August 1550, he travelled to Hiratowith his companions to head towards Kyoto, the capital of that time.

Mission in Hirato

Xavier and his companions arrived in Hirato, and visited the governorTakanobu Matsuura asking permission for the mission.They remained in thehouse of the Samurai named Kimura.

Together with Fernandez, Xavier started his missionary work using the simplecatechism he translated in Kagoshima.

Humble attitude of Xavier led the whole Kimura family to baptism also.Sebastian Kimura who was the grandson of Kimura, became the first Japanesepriest ordained in Nagasaki. On September 10, 1622, he became a martyr bydeath in fire, in Nishinosaka, Nagasaki. His cousin Leonardo became a Jesuitand also became a martyr in Nagasaki, on November 18, 1619. His nephewAntonio also became martyr on November 26, 1619. Those three martyrsare among the 205 Japanese blessed and martyrs.

Xavier, during his two-month-stay in Hirato, baptized about 100 people.Leaving their care to Father Tores, he left for Yamaguchi, on the way to thecapital.

Visit to Yamaguchi

At that time, Yamaguchi was one of the most prosperous city of Japan, and aculture influenced by Kyoto, called the Otomo culture, was flourishing.

When Xavier arrived, the Governor of Yamaguchi was one of the powerfulguardian feudal lords, Yoshitake Otomo. He protected academic studies andart, and often invited intellectuals and Budhist monks.

Xavier and Fernandez proclaimed the Gospel there also, but not many werebaptized in Yamaguchi.

Dilapidated capital

ecember 1550, Xavier went off to the capital together with Fernandez andBernardo. They walked from Yamaguchi to Iwakuni, and took the boat fromIwakuni to Sakae. This trip was very difficult due to the cold weather, lackof food, and unkindness of some people.

In Sakae, they received a warm welcome by the merchant Hibiya, who laterbecame the pillar of the church. January 1551, they found an accomodation inthe house of Konishi.The eldest son of Konishi got baptized 8 years later, in 1560. He is thefather of the famous Christian feudal lord, Yukinaga Konishi.

The capital Kyoto was completely dilapidated because of 11 years of civilwar. (It was called "Onin no ran" , and this civil war from 1467 whichlasted for 11 years, was between feudal lords Hosokawa (East) and Yamana(West), concerning the succession of Yoshimasa Ashikaga)The emperor did not have his power any longer, and the General YoshiteruAshikaga evaded to Omi.

Xavier was hoping to obtain permission for his missionary work in entireJapan, and to build a church of the Holy Mary. Unfortunately he could noteven enter Mount Hiei and see the emperor, neither could he get permissionfor his mission.

Disappointed, he left the capital and went back to Hirato, and gave anothertry to the mission in Yamaguchi.

>Missionary activities in Yamaguchi.

Xavier proclaiming gospel to Yoshitaka Ouchi

April 1551, Xavier, together with Fernandez, Bernardo and another JapaneseChristian, went into Yamaguchi. Unlike the previous time, they worebeautiful habit, and visited the governor of Yamaguchi, as delegation ofthe king's assistant from India.

Xavier then, presented to Yoshitaka Ouchi, credential letters from BishopGoa and assistant of the king of India, with gifts, which were meant forthe emperor.

They refused to accept the gift from Yoshitaka, in return, but instead,asked him permission for the missionary activities. Yoshitaka happilygranted permission and let them live in an empty temple.

Xavier started his mission there and baptized a blind lute player. His namewas Lorenzo, and he became the first Japanese Jesuit Brother. He preachedgospel to many people. During his four-month-stay in Yamaguchi, about 500people received the baptism.

Around this time, Xavier changed the word meaning God from "Onichi" to theLatin word "Zeus". This was because many budhist monks from different sects,brought arguments and Xavier got to understand better their opinion.

From Bungo towards Indi

September 1551, having heard that a Portuguese ship entered the port ofFunai, Xavier went off to Bungo, leaving the church to the care of FatherTores whom he called from Hirato.

*6 Yoshishige Otomo, who became Sorin later, was the governor of Bungo. Hewas only 20 years of age, and had just inherited his family property. Herespected Xavier and listened to his homily, giving permission for hismission in the territory.
At that time, in Yamaguchi, Takafusa Sue (later Harukata) rose a revolt andkilled Yoshitake Ouchi. Fortunately Father Tores and Fernandez got away fromthe danger.

When the civil war calmed down, Takafusa sent a messenger to Yoshishige inBungotelling him his wish to invite his brother Haruhide and to make himgovernor of Yamaguchi. Haruhide accepted this offer and moved toYamaguchi the following year. His name then became Yoshinaga Ouchi. Heprotected the missionaries, and the Christian mission continued. Churchprospered until 1556 when Motonari Moor occupied Yamaguchi.
Hearing about difficulties in the Society of Jesus in India, Xavier decidedto go back there once again on the ship V.da Gama, and solve the problem.

November 15, 1551, Xavier left the port of Bungo. It has been 2 years and 2months since he first arrived in Japan. At that time, he was thinking ofcoming back with another missionary, but it became his eternal farewell toJapan.
When Xavier left Japan, the number of Japanese Christians was 2000.

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*1. Saint Francisco Xavier (1506 - 1552)

Born in an aristocratic family in Navarra, Spain. From 1526 he studied atthe university of Paris , where he met Ignatius of Loyola. He wasinfluenced by Ignatius' way of thinking, and leaving all his wealth andhonor, he decided to follow Christ, joining the group of Ignatius. In 1534,he made his vow at Montmartre, Paris, to offer his life for themission, and founded the Society of Jesus. Three years later, he wasordained priest, and worked in Italy. In 1541, by the request of theking of Portugal, he was sent to India by Ignatius.

In India, although he encountered many difficulties due to the weather,climate and customs, he did everything he could for his mission, andbaptized many people. Later he went on a mission trip to Malaysia,Indonesia and Philippines. In Malacca, he met the Japanese, Yajiro,and ledhim to the faith. And in 1549, they went together to Kagoshima Theytravelled to Hirato, Hakata and Yamaguchi,on the way to Kyoto whereFrancisco wished to visit the emperor to ask permission for hismission. However, he could not meet the emperor and went back to Yamaguchi.There he got authorization for the mission from the feudal lord YositakaOuchi, and preached with enthusiam. Later, he got to know that Japan hadthe Chinese Budhist influence, and decided to go to China. In 1551, he leftJapan for India. Then in spite of his effort to go to China, he became illin Sancian island near the port of Canton and died. His body has beenbrought back to Goa, India.

*2. The Society of Jesus

The Society of Jesus has been founded by Saint Ignatius of Loyola. FirstLoyola was in the army. In 1521 he was wounded at Pamplona in the battleagainst France. Suffering in his treatment and recovery, he decided toserve God. He repented his way of life at the Barcelona pilgrimage andin his training at Manresa. He then, was filled with peace in thesolitude and experienced God, and brought forth his "SpiritualExercise".

At Montmartre in Paris, together with Xavier and six other companions, hemade the vow of poverty, chastity and the pilgrimage to the Holy Land, andstarted towards the foundation of the Congregation.

To work "for the greater Glory of God" is the mission of the Society ofJesus. Founding their own school, they paid special attention for theeducation of young people. Among the Jesuits there were many scholorsand they played an important part for the development of the CatholicChurch.

Society of Jesus worked actively in evangelizing of non-christians. Whileworking in Asia, the Jesuits always respected the culture and customs of acountry, which often resulted in controversy with other congregations.

*3. Father Cosme de Tores

He was born in Valencia, Spain. After being a Latin teacher, he went to Mexico and became a priest. At that time he was invited to enter the Franciscan order, but he refused.

Later, he became military chaplain and went aboard the Spanish fleet on anexpedition.

In 1546, he met Xavier on the Moluccas island, Indonesia, and got a deepimpression. He simply wanted to see Xavier again, and travelled to Goa, viaJava and Malacca. He waited for Xavier who was away on a mission trip. Twoyears later in 1548, they could meet again and Tores entered the Society ofJesus. Together they went off to the mission trip to Japan. In Japan theyworked as missionaries in Hirato and Yamaguchi, and after Xavier left Japan,he remained there for 20 years, preaching, fulfilling Xavier's wish.

*4. Brother John Fernandez

Born in Spain, he was a wealthy merchant. But he entered the Society ofJesus in 1547 and very soon became a member of Xavier's party. Humble ashe was, Xavier thought that he could become a priest, but he declinedthis offer.In Japan, he helped Xavier in preaching the Gospel and by standing in thecity street, being his interpreter and reading the catechism. He offered hislife until the end as a Brother in Japan.

*5. Yajiro

In Xavier's letters, his name is written "Anjiro".Sent to India by Ignatius, Xavier was going further to the East. And he metYajiro in Malacca, Malaysia in 1547.

Yajiro, who was born in the lower class of Samurai in Satsuma, came toencounter Xavier, in search of forgiveness. (some says that he had committedmurder and could not stay in Japan)

Xavier, hearing his fluent Portuguese, and seeing his desire to know more, and how intelledtual he is, asked him " If I go to Japan, do you think thatpeople will become Christians ?" Yajiro's answer was as follows: " Probablynot righ away. But people will ask you many questions, will look at yourattitude and way of being, and then think about if they would like tobecome Christians".

Already in the past, Xavier had heard merchants saying that in the countrycalled Japan, there are many intellectuals. And meeting Yajiro, he began tothink that to be a missionary in Japan, might be the will of God.

Yajiro studied catechism at the Saint Paul College, and got baptized ,receiving the name Paulo de Santa Fe. He landed in Kagoshima with Xavier,and served him as guide and interpreter. When Xavier left, he remained inKagoshima but what he had become afterwards is unknown.

The encounter of those two not only opened the door to the religiousexchange between East and West, but also of thoughts and culture.

*6. Yoshishige Otomo (1530- 1583)

Yoshishige Otomo, (later Sorin Otomo) who invited Xavier, risiding in Bungo(Oita now) extended his power to Higo, Hyuga and Chikugo.

At that time, Yoshishige was still young, and had just inherited his familyproperty, but he sent a letter to Xavier, pleading for his visit. Just aboutthe same period, a Portuguese ship came into the port of Bungo, and he hadalso received a letter from the captain, Duarte da Gama, (son of the Indianroute discoverer, Vasco da Gama)When Xavier arrived, people were astonished by the gun salute fired from the ship. Yoshishige got to know the custom of gun salute, and the feeling ofesteem towards the holy profession, and he was in admiration. He himself,welcomed Xavier with respect and esteem, enhanced the friendship withPortugal and allowed the missionary activities in his territories.

Yoshishige had been greatly influenced by Xavier. 27 years later, hereceived the faith and was baptized, with the name Francisco. Also, Otomo,Kimura and Arima sent the "Tensho" delegation of young people to Rome,and one of them Mansho Ito is a relative of Yoshishige. (Tensho: name ofthe years 1573-1592)

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