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Shrine now a national pilgrimage site

Ceremony also marks 150th anniversary of canonization of 26 martyrs

A memorial Mass is held at Kawaramachi Cathedral A memorial Mass is held at Kawaramachi Cathedral
  • ucanews.com correspondent, Tokyo
  • Japan
  • June 14, 2012
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Nishizaka, site of the 1597 martyrdom of 26 Catholics in Nagasaki, was declared a national pilgrimage site at a June 10 ceremony, two days after the 150th anniversary of their canonization in 1862.

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Japan had decided at their plenary session last February to mark the anniversary by making the declaration.

St Paul Miki and his companions were crucified at Nishizaka on February 5, 1597. Most of the martyrs had been arrested in Kyoto and Osaka and had been forced to make the journey to Nagasaki mostly on foot, traveling about 1,000 kilometers.

The 26 included six Franciscans and three who were either Jesuits or co-workers with the Jesuits. Seventeen were laypersons, including three children.

The executions at Nishizaka marked the beginning of a persecution that lasted until 1873. Estimates for the number killed range from 5,000 to 300,000.

A Memorial Mass commemorating the canonization was celebrated at three churches along the route the martyrs traveled, including the Kawaramachi Cathedral of Kyoto.

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