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Heading the wrong Way for Japan

The country's Neo-Cats need some time for reflection that will pave the way for dialog

Archbishop Peter Takeo Okada of Tokyo Archbishop Peter Takeo Okada of Tokyo
  • Archbishop Peter Takeo Okada of Tokyo
  • Japan
  • February 2, 2011
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Over about the past 20 years, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Japan (CBCJ) has expended great time and energy on problems concerning the Neocatechumenal Way (which I refer to hereafter as simply ‘the Way’). To our extreme disappointment, these efforts have not improved the situation.

Of the passion and good intentions of the people of the Way, I have not the slightest doubt. Nevertheless, the Way’s activities over the past 30 years can in no way be called a success. The fact is that the character and conduct of the Way have not adapted well to the Church or society of Japan.

It is perhaps necessary for the Way in Japan to suspend its activities for a period of consideration and reflection which could pave the way for dialog with the Church in Japan.

It is not my understanding that the CBCJ has collectively reached a binding decision to this effect. Rather, at the request of Takamatsu Diocese, the 16 diocesan bishops are to individually decide and enforce the appropriate course of action for their dioceses based on their own judgment as local ordinary.

The Catholic Church in Japan is a tiny minority, forming only 0.3 percent of the general population, and I am deeply saddened to see the division, conflict, and chaos that follow the Way as they move amongst us.

For thirteen years now, more than 30,000 people a year have committed suicide in Japan. I want the people of the Way to see this reality. I want them to grapple first and foremost with the question of what they can do for these people. If they act in ways that the members of Japanese society can understand and sympathize with, they will surely gain this society’s trust. I pray and hope that they will join us in undertaking evangelization tailored for the needs of the people of Japan.

The directives coming from the headquarters of the Way in Rome have been given precedence over the leadership of the bishops, and so we are continually confronted with dilemmas and rack our brains in distress. The Church’s mission in Japan is supposed to have been entrusted to Her bishops here. We take this extraordinary yoke upon our neck and devote our fiercest efforts to mission and to pastoral care.

Speaking solely of the Archdiocese of Tokyo, I don’t think that the Way has thus far caused especially big problems, although fundraisers conducted without the bishop’s consent, for example, and some confusion in specific parishes do come to mind.

However, the situation is different for the Ecclesiastical Province of Osaka, and in Takamatsu Diocese especially the trouble is severe.

The Church in Japan began in 1549, with the missionary activities of St. Francis Xavier. It is Church built by a multitude of holy and excellent missionaries, and has become the Mother of a host of martyrs. Through religious prohibition it survived, and since the resumption of open promotion of the faith here some 140 years have passed. Among the distinguished missionaries who have worked in Japan are the current Superior General of the Society of Jesus, Father Adolfo Nicolás, and Father Josep M. Abella, Superior General of the Claretian Missionaries.

Despite all this, a great distance yet remains to be traveled on the road to the evangelization of Japan. I implore Kiko Argüello and all the members of the Way to take this fact to heart.

I understand the reason the Way was established. I do believe that they have had a great deal of success in the faith formation of people who have been baptized but abandoned their beliefs. However, I must stress that the situation in a mission territory is different.

I hear that the people of the Way are champions of the sick and the disabled. I want them to take up this role in Japan. I also expect good things from their pastoral work on behalf of foreign residents. But I ask that they reflect and pray with us to discern what is necessary for the evangelization of Japan as it truly exists today.

JA13129.1639

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