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History of the Japanese Catholic Church

3. Prohibition of Christian religion by Hideyoshi and 26 martyrs.

Death of Nobunaga

Right after the Tensho delegation left for Europe, there was a big change in political power in Japan. By the change of Honno temple, Nobunaga was destroyed, and Hideyoshi took the power.

In Kyushu, there were many conflicts between Feudal Lords, and Yoshihisa Shimazu extended his power.

In 1587, while Valignano was away, *1 the Vice Provincial Coelho, seeing that the conflict has been getting worse, asked Hideyoshi to send a military assistance to save Sorin Otomo. Hideyoshi, promising, sent an army to Kyushu.

Through this battle, some converted to Christianity. Among the army of Hideyoshi, there was Uknon Takayama, and his followers had a flag marked with cross. In May, Shimazu surrendered to the army of Hideyoshi.

However, the attitude of Coelho towards the political power was the beginning of distrust and being on guard for Hideyoshi. At the same time the attitutde of Coelho was not for the religious activity meant by Valignano.

Prohibition of Christian religion.

In July 1587, all of a sudden, Hideyoshi ordered Ukon to leave his faith. To Coelho, he sent a messenger to ask what causes his dissatisfaction. And on the 25, Hideyoshi ordered the prohibition of religion. Ukon who did not accept to leave his faith, was taken away his territory and the missionaries have been sent away.

This disposition taken by Hideyoshi was probably not decided suddenly, but thought about for sometime before. He dreaded the religious influence in politics, and seeing the success in the battle of Kyushu, his suspicion changed into the sense of crisis.

By this prohibition, churches had been closed, and some people left the religion, but no one opposed to it openly and Hideyoshi did not do anything more about this.
Missionaries had been gathered in Hizen, and discussing the way out.

Ukon Takayama who had been expelled to Shodo Island kept his faith and accepted the trial. On the other hand, the daughter of Mitsuhide Aketi, *2 Tamako (Garcia Hosokawa) secretly got baptized in Osaka. Attitude of those two have been a model for Christians even now.

Return of Tensho Keno Youth delegation.

In July 1590, the delegation together with Valignano came back to Japan after 8 years. When Valignano left Japan, he was the inspector, but now, he came back as the head of delegation of India. To this, Hideyoshi showed a generous attitude, and he even had an exchange with the members of the delegation. However, one could not obtain the cancellation of the prohibition of the Christianity

At the time of their return, the delegation members brought back a printing machine. With this machine, Catechism, Act of apostles and the Life of Saints and other 50 kinds of publication had been published.

One of the members, Martino Hara has been active through the translation.
His last translation into Japanese was "Conte mutu sumundi", (Learn from Christ). However, unfortunately the printing machine has been sent to Macao for the suppression of the faith.

Vessel San Felipe and the 26 martyr saints

Hideyoshi has been more and more powerful, and he extended his power abroad as well. His invasion of Korea, and he also threatened the Philippines of invading. From the Philippines a delegation with the Franciscan Father Pedro Baptista came over and the treaty of commerce of Manila has been signed.

Franciscan Fathers, relieved with the treaty, started to preach openly.

In October 1596, a Spanish ship San Felipe, traveling from the Philippines to Mexico, drifted ashore in Urado because of a storm. This was a commercial ship, and carried many merchandise, but everything has been confiscated by the order of Hideyoshi.

One of the Franciscan priests who had been on this ship, talked to the Franciscan Father Pedro Baptista and asked Hideyoshi to return their merchandise.

And when the officials of Osaka and Spanish people were arguing, it was said that there was a threat about invasion of more countries behind the religious activities.

When Hideyoshi heard about all this, he decided to capture all Christians, just because "they were preaching a forbidden religion".

Father Pedro *3 and other Franciscan missionaries (6 of them) were captured, together with Paulo Miki and 15 other Christians, including 3 children.

These martyrs had been showed around Fushimi and Osaka on a bull carriage, with their left ear cut off. Then on l0 January 1597, in bitter cold weather, they started their trip to martyrdom, walking, all the way to Nagasaki.

Thomas Kozaki

The "crime" they committed, were written and exposed highly, but since they left Hideyoshi, they had been praising God, praying , and had been supported by faith all the way. Paulo Miki continued to preach on the way, and the fourteen year-old Thomas Kozaki *4 wrote a touching letter to his mother.
And the youngest of them all, *5 Rudovigo Ibaragi refused with clear attitude to abandon his faith.

And not only that, on their way, two more martyrs joined them, just as if to show proof of the faith.

photo by:Isamu Nagao

Arriving in Nagasaki, they asked for the Sacrament of Reconciliation, but were refused. On February 5, 1597, the execution began. On the hill of Nishisaka (the present Nishisaka park), 26 crucifix had been lined and more than 4000 faithfuls were there.

The 26 who were crucified, sang the song of praise, and Paulo Miki when their sin has been read, said "We are going to be killed because we do believe in the teaching of God, and we preached it. But according to the teaching of God, we cordially, forgive all the officials".

Thus, all the martyrs had been pierced the breast, one after the other, by four officials.

Those 26 Japanese martyrs had been blessed in 1627, and in 1862 they became saints by the Pope Pius IX. Also the place where they were killed, became an official pilgrimage site by the Pope Pius XII in 1950.

photo by:Isamu Nagao

The church of Oura Tenshudo (the oldest wooden Gothic church) has been offered to 26 martyrs, and a monument has been sculptured on their l00th anniversary of becoming saints.

It is for us Christians, a place to remember their faith.

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*1 Gaspal Coelho (1530-1590)

1556, he entered the Society of Jesus in Goa
1571, went to Macao, and then came to Japan. He preached in the territory of Omura, and instructed people towards conversion.
1574, he has been posted by Valignano as Vice Provincial Superior, and got the permission to preach and went around the territory.

*2 Garcia Hosokawa (1563-1600)

Her real name is Tamako, and Garcia is her baptism name. Daughter of Aketi Mitsuhide, wife of Tadaoki Hosokawa.
Married at a young age, she has been imprisoned as traitor during the alteration of Honno Temple, but had been released and allowed to get back to her husband. She had been secretly baptized in Osaka, and maybe that was under the influence of Ukon Takayama who was a good friend of her husband.
At the battle of Sekigahara, she refused to become a hostage, and hid herself.

*3 Pedro Baptista (1546-1597)

From Spain. He studied philosophy and theology and went into the Franciscan order at the age of 22.
Missionary in Mexico and then in the Philippines.
In the Philippines, he had been the Provincial Superior, and in 1593 he came to Japan as head of the delegation. He has been a good guide for the 26 Japanese martyrs.

*4 Thomas Kozaki (1583-1597)

Son of Miguel Kozaki, also one of the 26 martyrs, he was only 14 years old.

He had always lived in the church atmosphere, and in a convent in Osaka, but has been caught in Kyoto. After they died as martyrs, there was a letter written by Thomas to his mother, stained with blood. His actual letter does no longer exist, but there is a Spanish translation in Vatican.

*5 Rudovigo Ibaragi (1585-1597)

Youngest of the 26 martyrs, he was the son of Paulo Ibaragi, also one of the martyrs.
He has lived in a convent in Kyoto. On the way to Nagasaki, he had been always joyful, and encouraged others who were suffering about the martyrdom. One Samurai feeling sorry for this young boy recommended him to leave the religion, but he firmly refused.

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