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One year after, prayer brings Japan together

Services to remember victims of deadly quake

One year after, prayer brings Japan together
Mass at Motoderakoji Cathedral in Sendai yesterday special correspondent, Tokyo

March 12, 2012

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March 11, the first anniversary of last year’s devastating earthquake and tsunami, was a day of prayer in Japan. Churches throughout the nation marked the day by holding prayer meetings, including communal services bringing together Catholics and Protestants. In Tokyo, the National Christian Council in Japan and the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Japan (CBCJ) held a joint service at Kojimachi Catholic Church. About 1,000 people attended. Archbishop Takeo Okada of Tokyo, vice-president of the CBCJ, was the main celebrant and gave the homily. NCCJ Moderator, Reverend Isamu Koshiishi of the Anglican Communion member Church in Japan, Nippon Sei Ko Kai, concelebrated. At 2:46pm (0546 GMT), the moment the earthquake struck a year earlier, the church bells rang out and the whole assembly fell silent for a moment of prayer. “I suspect the disaster was a great trial of faith even for us Christians,” Archbishop Okada said during his homily. He also called everyone’s attention to a CBCJ message in November calling for an end to the use of nuclear power. During the service, two people spoke about activities that have been carried out in response to the disasters over the past year. One was Sister Keiko Takagi, director of the Institute of Grief Care at Jesuit-run Sophia University in Tokyo, who reflected on her own experience in the stricken region. Sr Takagi, a member of the Society of Helpers who also lived through the Great Hanshin Earthquake in 1995, offered the story of a 35-year-old mother who lost her six-year-old daughter while fleeing the tsunami. At their first meeting last May, the woman thrust both her hands out to Sr Takagi and said, “I couldn’t save my daughter. I wish someone would cut these hands off!” As private individuals and as people of faith, as citizens, “all we can do is pray,” said the nun after telling the story. Meanwhile, in Sendai diocese, where much of the devastation caused by the disasters was concentrated, there was a Mass of memorial at Sendai City’s Motoderkoji Cathedral. Bishop Tetsuo Hiraga presided over the Mass, which was dedicated to “prayers in memory of those slain in the Great East Japan Earthquake Disaster and petitions for recovery.” More than 500 people attended. At the beginning, the congregation contemplated the plight of the victims as a slideshow showed some of the relief efforts made by Sendai diocese over the past year. Then, as in Tokyo, at 2:46 a bell tolled, and all fell silent in prayer. During his homily, Bishop Hiraga reflected on the catastrophic damage before offering his thanks for the outpouring of both material support and manpower that came to the aid of the region from other parts of Japan and throughout the world. “Despite the year that has passed, we still sometimes feel powerless in our work as we recall the delays in the arrival of aid; the mountains of rubble; the troubles caused by the accident at the nuclear reactor, to which there is no resolution in sight. It shows that we must come profoundly to terms with those words of Jesus: ‘Take heed! Keep alert! ’ Let us all indeed take heed, lest our hearts grow dull.” Finally, Bishop Hiraga concluded with a prayer: “that in His providence  God, our loving Father, will grant eternal rest to the victims who lost their lives and, to those who survived, the strength and courage to go on living.”    
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