ucanews.com reporter, Tokyo
Updated: September 18, 2018 04:33 AM GMT
Archbishop Manyo Maeda during Mass at St. Mary's Cathedral in Osaka on Sept. 21, 2017. (Photo supplied)
Archbishop Manyo Maeda of Osaka was more surprised than anyone at the news he is to become a cardinal.
"People have been emailing and calling one after the other to say they had seen the announcement," the cardinal-designate told a ucanews.com reporter after Pope Francis announced his list of new cardinals in Rome on May 20.
"I myself did not know about the announcement at all and I had no contact in advance. Personally, I don't think I'm the most suitable person to be a cardinal, so I still find it hard to believe."
Archbishop Maeda is vice-president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Japan (CBCJ). He was born in Nagasaki prefecture in 1949 and was ordained a priest for Nagasaki Archdiocese in 1975. After serving as secretary-general of the CBCJ from 2006 to 2011, he was ordained bishop for Hiroshima Diocese in September 2011. In August 2014, he was transferred to Osaka as archbishop.
As a native of Nagasaki, Bishop Maeda was widely involved in the peace movement in Hiroshima. He also worked for the beatification of "hidden Christians" who had been exiled to Tsuwano in present-day Shimane prefecture, part of Hiroshima Diocese. In the final outbreak of anti-Christian persecution in Japan 150 years ago, some 3,400 Christians from Nagasaki were exiled to various places throughout the country, and more than 600 died.
Archbishop Maeda can be called a legitimate successor to the apostles who were fishermen. When he was a parish priest, he frequently went fishing in his own boat and carried the sort of colorful flag that Japanese fishermen raise when they net a large catch.
For many years, he has been involved with people with disabilities, while as a member of the CBCJ he has been on its committees for education and ecumenism.
The cardinal-designate is also a master of the short Japanese poetic form called haiku and his poems often appear in his sermons and articles.
Archbishop Maeda is the sixth Japanese to be named a cardinal, but unlike his predecessors he has not been active in international matters.