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Papal Nuncio visits disaster area

Local Church officials discuss future course of action, seek more priests

Ofunato Church in Iwate Prefecture escaped damage due to its position high on a hill but a mausoleum nearby, once standing in the foreground of this picture, was demolished Ofunato Church in Iwate Prefecture escaped damage due to its position high on a hill but a mausoleum nearby, once standing in the foreground of this picture, was demolished
  • Japan
  • April 14, 2011
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The Apostolic Nuncio to Japan, Archbishop Alberto Bottari de Castello, has visited Sendai diocese to see for himself the devastation caused by last month’s earthquake and tsunami.

The Nuncio celebrated Mass outside Motoderakoji Cathedral in Sendai City on Sunday, during which he offered words of encouragement to those who have suffered since the disaster struck.

He had no choice but to hold the liturgy in the garden outside the cathedral, because the building was itself a victim of the destruction and is unsafe for use. During a 7.1-magnitude aftershock on April 8, a portion of the wall directly above the sanctuary crumbled and fell to the floor far below, leaving debris strewn about the altar.

After Mass, Archbishop Bottari de Castello visited two churches, Shiogama and Ishinomaki, which have become bases for volunteer activities since the earthquake on March 11. He offered encouragement and praise to the people working there and saw for himself the harsh conditions people are living under.

The nuncio’s  three-day visit which ended on Monday followed two days of meetings involving bishops, priests and other Catholics devoted to the long-term care and reconstruction of the region and its people.

During the first, on April 7, Sendai diocesan priests discussed responses to the region’s troubles. They decided to continue operating the Sendai Diocese Support Center, which was established as an emergency measure in the first few days following the disaster.

It was also decided that each church in areas along the battered coast should have a priest of its own.

Father Shiro Komatsu, chancellor of Sendai diocese, explained the decision.

“Until now, we had some priests assigned to several churches there, and people going from inland churches to take care of coastal ones. But for a period of three to five years, we would like to assign priests in [those coastal churches],” he said.

“Of course, that means that some inland parishes will have to lose their priests, so we will submit a request to the bishops’ conference asking them whether we can get some priests from other dioceses and from the religious orders — and perhaps whether they could send some Religious and laypeople here, too,” he added.

Fr. Komatsu was also present at the next meeting on April 8 at Sendai diocese’s main office.

This meeting, headed by bishops Daiji Tani of Saitama, Tetsuo Hiraga of Sendai, and Caritas Japan president Isao Kikuchi of Niigata, discussed how the Sendai Diocese Support Center would continue operating.

It also addressed the previous meeting’s recommendations and requests.

Bishop Kikuchi said he would take up the request for more priests. Also, it was resolved that Sendai would finalize and submit a reconstruction plan in the near future.

JA13966.1649

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