Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of Archbishop Peter Takeo Okada of Tokyo, and appointed Divine Word Bishop Tarcisius Isao Kikuchi as his successor, the Vatican announced yesterday. The archbishop-designate is presently bishop of Niigata in northwest Japan and served as a missionary in West Africa for eight years from 1986. He is president of both Caritas Japan and Caritas Asia, as well as a member of the Representative Council of Caritas Internationalis. "The Holy Father has given me such a heavy task to fulfil. I have never lived nor worked within Tokyo Archdiocese
so I have to start from scratch," Bishop Kikuchi told ucanews.com. "Many might feel that I am a slow starter but I have to take time to grasp the reality in the archdiocese. I hope everyone will be patient enough to accept me and support me with prayers," he said. Bishop Kikuchi said Pope Francis aims to create a society without exclusion and based on the values of the Gospel. "Unfortunately, the general feeling of excluding foreign influences in society has been a growing trend recently all over the world, including Japan. Based on our Catholic faith and following my own episcopal motto, which is 'Unity in Diversity', I would like to work for unity in society rich in diversity," he said. Bishop Kikuchi was born in Miyako City, Iwate Prefecture, in 1958, one of the places struck by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami
. He was ordained a priest for the Society of the Divine Word on March 15, 1986, and was sent to Ghana, where he served as a pastor in the Diocese of Koforidua. The former missionary was elected provincial of the Society of the Divine Word in Japan in 1999. Bishop Kikuchi was named bishop of Niigata May 14, 2004, and was ordained bishop on Sept. 20 that year. He also served as the apostolic administrator of the Diocese of Sapporo from 2009 to 2013, and has been a member of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples since 2014. The Archdiocese of Tokyo is the biggest diocese in Japan with about 97,000 Catholics and 75 parishes. However, the Catholic population figure does not include foreigners, who may outnumber Japanese. The archdiocese consists of Tokyo and Chiba prefecture. Retired Archbishop Okada
, a Tokyo diocesan priest, was archbishop of Tokyo from 2000 and has also been apostolic administrator of the Saitama diocese since 2013. He will continue as administrator of Saitama. Archbishop Okada was the bishop of Saitama (then called Urawa) before becoming Tokyo archbishop.