During a 10-day pastoral visit to Japan, Cardinal Fernando Filoni stressed that the Catholic Church in the East Asian nation has a special vocation for peace. Cardinal Fernando Filoni, prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, made the comments after visiting the atomic bombed cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki as well as towns polluted by radiation from the 2011 Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster. During his visit to Hiroshima, Cardinal Filoni wrote: "Hiroshima: il Suo nuovo nome e Pace" (Hiroshima: its new name is Peace) in the guest books of both the Peace Memorial Museum
and the bishop's residence. During his Sept. 17-26 visit, Cardinal Filoni also likened Japan to a ship, rather than islands, saying, "fly the flag of peace and navigate toward the whole world." The cardinal met local priests, religious, laypeople and seminarians in Fukuoka, Nagasaki, Hiroshima
, Osaka, Sendai and Tokyo.
Cardinal Fernando Filoni visited the Twenty-Six Martyrs Museum and Monument in Nagasaki on Sept. 19. (Photo supplied) The prefect also gave a letter from Pope Francis to Archbishop Mitsuaki Takami of Nagasaki, president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Japan, at the apostolic nunciature in Tokyo. In the letter, the pope pointed to the country's challenges, "for example, the high divorce rate, suicide among the young, people who choose to live totally detached from social life, religious and spiritual formalism, moral relativism, religious indifference, and obsession with work and making money." The pope added: "It is equally true that a society that races ahead in economic development also creates among you the poor, marginalized and excluded. I think not only of those who are materially, but also spiritually and morally poor." Cardinal Filoni repeated a question during his pastoral visit to small Christian communities: "Why do we have to bring the Gospel to Japan?" In answer, he quoted the pope's letter, "in this very specific context, there is an urgent need for the church in Japan to constantly renew her choice for the mission of Jesus and that she be salt and light." The cardinal visited the two campuses of the Japan Catholic Seminary in Fukuoka and Tokyo. There, he stressed the importance of a solid and integral priestly and religious formation, as a particularly urgent task, especially due to the spread of the "throwaway culture." The cardinal also made an unscheduled visit to Loyola House, a home for aged and infirm Jesuits near the campus of the Tokyo seminary. There he expressed his appreciation to those Jesuits for their long service in Japan.
Cardinal Fernando Filoni blesses Catholics at the end of Mass at St. Mary's Cathedral in Osaka on Sept. 21. (Photo supplied) 'Vatican-approved ecclesial movements'
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The pope's letter to Japan's bishops included a paragraph that mentioned "ecclesial movements approved by the Apostolic See" which became a topic of discussion among local Catholics. It was believed to refer to the Neocatechumenal Way
which has caused troubles in the Church in Japan, especially in the smallest diocese, Takamatsu. Cardinal Filoni is known to be a supporter of the movement. However, he seldom referred to any of these movements during his visit. Japan's bishops have in the past complained that that the movement undermined the unity of the local Catholic community. Pope Paul VI recognized the movement in 1974, saying, "your communities are an authentic, real way of living your Christian vocation" but at the same time urged members to be "highly attentive to dependence on your pastors and communion with all your brothers, with all other parishioners, with the priests and the bishops."