Cardinal Robert Sarah, president of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum
visited Japan with Monsignor Segundo Tejado Muñoz, Cor Unum
’s undersecretary, from May 13 -17. His trip to the lands ravaged by earthquake and tsunami bore special significance, as he had been sent as a personal representative of Pope Benedict XVI.
|[Cardinal Sarah was viewing tsunami-hit area in Ishinomaki City, Miyagi Prefecture] |
Accompanying the Cardinal were a number of other Church officials, including Archbishop Alberto Bottari De Castello, Apostolic Nuncio to Japan, as well as Jesuit Archbishop Jun Ikenaga of Osaka, now serving as president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Japan (CBCJ), Bishop Daiji Tani of Saitama, and Bishop Tetsuo Hiraga of Sendai. Last Sunday, Cardinal Sarah celebrated a Mass of memorial for the deceased victims of the recent disasters at Sendai City’s Motoderakoji Cathedral, which bears its own scars from the quake and had received a separate visit from the Nuncio a month earlier. At the end of the Mass, Cardinal Sarah presented Bishop Hiraga with the proceeds of a special collection taken up at the Vatican during the Holy Thursday liturgy on behalf of Japan’s disaster victims.
|[Cardinal Sarah handed a donation to Sendai Bishop Hiraga at a Mass in Sendai Cathedral] |
On Sunday afternoon, Cardinal Sarah went out by car to some of the sites of the devastation. In Shichigahama, a Miyagi Prefecture town, the cardinal walked with others along a strip of land, now barren, where houses had been swept away in the tsunami. Venturing out beyond the seawall down to the edge of the water, he offered a prayer and placed a bouquet of flowers on behalf of both deceased and injured victims.
|[Cardinal Sarah prayed and put flowers at the water's edge in Shichigahama, Miyagi Prefecture] |
Later, the retinue moved on to Ishinomaki City and Sendai Diocese’s base of relief operations at Ishinomaki Church. Then, after observing the damage to the city from a vantage point, they proceeded to other locations laid waste in the disasters, including a portion of Natori City (near Sendai) that had been turned into a wilderness by the tsunami. During the day’s activities, Father Daisuke Narui, executive director of Caritas Japan, explained the work of the Sendai Diocese Support Center to Cardinal Sarah and the others. On May 14 the Cardinal visited Iwaki City in Fukushima Prefecture, where Saitama Diocese is engaged in relief activities. He listened to members of the Diocese who are involved in the efforts and visited Onahama Church there. Here, too, money collected at the Vatican was donated to the cause. That afternoon, the whole group returned to Tokyo’s Sekiguchi Cathedral to attend a Mass of thanksgiving for the beatification of Pope John Paul II organized by the CBCJ. On May 16, Cardinal Sarah left the harbor of Matsushima Town in Miyagi Prefecture in a cruise ship.
|[Matsushima Miyagi, onne of the “Three Views of Japan”, in happier times] |
The area is no stranger to sightseers—it is known as one of the “Three Views of Japan”—but leisure was not on the agenda as the Cardinal inspected the battered landscape from the water and led those present in a prayer for the repose of the souls of all the victims. While in the area, the Cardinal also stopped to pay his respects to the mayors of Matsushima and Sendai. Cardinal Sarah’s visit was widely reported in the mainstream Japanese press. JA14259