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Japan's 'samurai of Christ' beatified

Blessed Justo Takayama Ukon (1552-1615) renounced his honors and chose poverty at a time when Christianity was outlawed

ucanews.com reporter, Tokyo

ucanews.com reporter, Tokyo

Published: February 08, 2017 08:31 AM GMT

Updated: February 08, 2017 10:23 AM GMT

Japan's 'samurai of Christ' beatified

Cardinal Angelo Amato during the conclusion of the beatification Mass of Justo Takayama Ukon, held at Osaka Castle Hall on Feb. 7. (Photo supplied)

Cardinal Angelo Amato, Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, celebrated Mass for the beatification of Justo Takayama Ukon at the hall of Osaka Castle, once the center of his persecutors hundreds of years ago.

At the beginning of the Mass, Archbishop Takeo Okada of Tokyo petitioned that the Venerable Servant of God Justo Takayama Ukon be inscribed among the blessed. Cardinal Amato read the apostolic letter by Pope Francis inscribing Ukon among the blessed.

In his homily, Cardinal Amato said that the Japanese church was "blessed by the witness of uncountable martyrs."

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Among the 30 bishops concelebrating Mass on Feb. 7 were Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila, six bishops from Korea and others from Vietnam, Cambodia and Luxemburg. An estimated 10,000 people attended the event. Besides the many Japanese Catholics, there were also Korean, Filipino and Vietnamese Catholics who live in the Osaka area.

Representatives of Christian Churches, Buddhist monks, heads of local governments where Blessed Ukon was born or lived, present and former Japanese ambassadors to the Holy See and masters of the Japanese tea ceremony also attended the event. Blessed Ukon was well-known for his expertise in Japanese tea ceremonies.


Beatification Mass of Justo Takayama Ukon held at Osaka Castle Hall on Feb. 7. (Photo supplied)


During the Mass, Jesuit Father Anton Witwer, postulator for the cause, gave a brief biography that introduced Blessed Ukon.

"He never betrayed his beliefs and remained steadfast in his commitment to Christ. His chosen way was to follow the Martyr of Golgotha, the way of poverty and humiliation," Father Witwer said.

It is believed that Blessed Ukon was born in 1552 to a daimyo (a Japanese feudal lord) about three years after St. Francis Xavier brought Christianity to Japan. His father, Dario, was baptized and protected missionaries. Blessed Ukon was also baptized as a child.

After becoming a daimyo himself, Ukon built churches and seminaries in his territory. He also did the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola at least twice. But after the start of the persecution of Christians and the expelling of Catholic missionaries, Blessed Ukon renounced his honors and chose poverty, moving from place to place.

In 1614, the Tokugawa Shogun outlawed Christianity totally and Blessed Ukon was exiled to Manila via Nagasaki. In December of that year, he arrived in Manila and died there in February 1615.


Archbishop Takeo Okada of Tokyo expresses his appreciation to Cardinal Angelo Amato, representative of Pope Francis, at the beatification Mass for Justo Takayama on Feb. 7. (Photo supplied)


Soon after Blessed Ukon's death, the cause for his canonization began. However, because of difficulties such as the impossibility of gathering necessary materials from Japan, the cause came to the end.

In 1940, the archbishop of Manila delegated to the then archbishop of Osaka the authority to reinitiate the cause. In 1964, the official committee to examine the historical documents for Blessed Ukon's canonization was established in Osaka Archdiocese.

This investigation was later taken over by a special committee of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Japan that, in April 1986, submitted the documents to the postulator requesting the canonization of Blessed Ukon as a confessor.

Later, the Japanese bishops changed the reason for Blessed Ukon's canonization from confessor to martyr. Finally, on Jan. 21, Pope Francis approved his beatification, 402 years after his death.

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