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Sendai bishop rallies the faithful

A candle lit at Easter Vigil Mass for each disaster-stricken city

Sendai bishop rallies the faithful
Easter Vigil Mass is celebrated at Sendai special correspondent, Sendai

April 29, 2011

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The bishop of the earthquake and tsunami-devastated northeastern diocese of Sendai has set basic policies for the response to the disaster and used an Easter Vigil Mass to comfort and strengthen his flock as they rebuild their shattered lives. Bishop Tetsuo Hiraga of Sendai Diocese called together 26 of his diocesan priests to discuss the new policies he intends to implement. The bishop directed Church workers not to neglect any part of the disaster area or any of the afflicted people. He urged the Church to use the utmost strength, “to offer itself as a companion, a pillar of support, an ally of common cause, a voice of encouragement, a heart beating as one” for all the victims, but,especially for those weakest and most forgotten. The plan puts the Sendai Diocese Support Center at the center of the relief effort and calls for support of inland churches to assist those on the coast. Bishop Hiraga said that, through the pursuit of these objectives, “we hope to partake of the blessings of a renewed look at our faith and of faith as a way of life.” He also sought priests’ understanding of how the plan might affect matters of personnel. Two days before his meeting with the priests, Bishop Hiraga had asked for assistance from the Bishops’ Conference of Japan, seeking among other things for priests to be sent from other dioceses. At the meeting, Father Takashi Aizu of Sendai Diocese said that “some at the meeting have objected that the plan would be difficult to bring to pass, but we must turn it around and ask, ‘What can we do?’” “The Church is something that acts on behalf of others even in dangerous situations," the priest said. "Now is the chance to do something, even if it’s a small thing; to pray and do what we can. I think we priests are being asked if we are resolved to do what we can in the face of these personnel dilemmas.” Bishop Hiraga celebrated at Easter Vigil Mass at Motoderakoji Cathedral in Sendai City. The congregation, bolstered by volunteers and priests working at the Sendai Diocese Support Center, was swelled further as five nearby parishes came to participate in the Vigil, during which 13 catechumens were baptized into the Church. “The more profound the darkness, the more piercingly the light will shine through, and the more brightness, warmth, joy, and peace it will bring,” the bishop said during the homily. “God never abandoned his people, but promised to deliver them from evil, and by his prophets he led them in strength through the events of history. Let us strive to live as children of the light, yoked closely with Christ,” said Bishop Hiraga. The next day, some parishioners from Haramachi Church in Fukushima Prefecture’s Minamisoma City, prayed and attended an Easter Sunday Mass at Kita Sendai Church in Sendai City. Haramachi has been greatly affected by the accidents at the nearby Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, and because damage to the church itself still cannot be repaired, they are considering renting out a parishioner’s house to use for Mass as an interim measure. At the beginning of Mass at Kita Sendai Church, a candle was lit for each of the many disaster-stricken cities, while the number of victims in each city was read aloud. During the prayers of the faithful, a woman from Ofunato City in tsunami-devastated Iwate Prefecture prayed, “A great deal of property and many lives were lost when the tsunami hit, but we must go on living together with the sea. Please give us strength.”

Translated by Dominic Pease

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