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Priest who served Japan's homeless hailed as role model

Father Takeya Motoi, a Divine Word priest, died on March 22 after more than 40 years of work among homeless people
A homeless man carries a bag while crossing a street at night in Tokyo on Dec. 8, 2020. With a population of around 125.7 million people, Japan has one of the lowest numbers of homeless people.

A homeless man carries a bag while crossing a street at night in Tokyo on Dec. 8, 2020. With a population of around 125.7 million people, Japan has one of the lowest numbers of homeless people. (Photo: AFP)

Published: March 26, 2024 10:56 AM GMT
Updated: March 26, 2024 11:52 AM GMT

A Catholic bishop in Japan has lauded a recently deceased Divine Word priest for his 40 years of service to the homeless people in the country and has called him a “role model as a missionary.”

“When I was a seminarian, I used to join [Father Takeya Motoi’s] activities every Thursday,” recalled Bishop Paul Daisuke Narui of Niigata, Radio Veritas Asia (RVA) reported on March 26.

“He has been my role model as a missionary,” Daisuke added while emphasizing that Motoi had been working for homeless people for more than 40 years in Nagoya City.

Motoi, who died on March 22, was the founder of the Sasashima Kyosei Kai (Sasashima’s Solidarity Organization) for the homeless and had also worked with the Home for the Homeless in Nagoya City.

Daisuke recalled Motoi’s commitment to his missionary work among the homeless despite his ailments.

“While Father Motoi suffered from illness these years, he often said, ‘I hope to be like Anpanman, who feeds for others by offering himself.’ Indeed, he continued his commitment until very recently,” Daisuke said.

Anpanman is a Japanese children's superhero picture book series written by Takashi Yanase and adapted into the anime “Let's Go! Anpanman,” which is popular among children in Japan. It depicts the story of an unsung hero, an ordinary man who gave anpan (bread filled with sweet bean paste) to hungry children who lived in poverty.

Motoi’s pastoral work covered the poor, mentally depressed, unemployed, and homeless living on the streets.

He also helped the people regain their lost human dignity and self-respect, and made them self-reliant, RVA reported.

Reportedly, Motoi had succeeded in getting the help of the local communities and had motivated the local government to provide free medical care and temporary housing for those in need.

The Home for the Homeless in Nagoya City provides people with food, clothes, housing, and counseling, among other services.

The homeless individuals also receive assistance in finding suitable jobs, and those with families receive assistance in reuniting with them, RVA reported.

At 0.003 percent or roughly one homeless person per 34,000 residents, Japan is a country with the world’s lowest rate of homelessness, the Development Aid said in December 2023.

With a population of around 125.7 million people, Japan also has one of the lowest numbers of homeless people, the Development Aid added.

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