1985-06-05 00:00:00

More than 500 pilgrims gathered last month to visit the grave of a Catholic woman who led an exemplary life for.40-years on a far-off island without benefit of the sacraments.

The pilgrims traveled eight hours by boat from Tokyo to Kozoshima island May 18 to honor Ota Julia, a native of Korea who came to Japan as a prisoner of war more than 300 years ago. She was baptized at age 3 in Japan, in the home of Daimyo Konichi Yukingaga, a Catholic.

During the persecution of Lord Tokugawa Ieyasu, Julia was expelled from Tokyo because of her faith: first to the island of Oshima off the coast of Tokyo, and later to the distant Kozushima island where she performed works of charity, especially for the very poor.

The island people continued to revere her after her death by bringing flowers, fruits and vegetables to her grave.

In a letter to a friend, a Jesuit priest, Julia explained that her greatest suffering was not being able to attend Mass or receive Communion during her many years on the island.

Pilgrims gathered May 18 at the shrine of Julia for a solemn concelebrated Mass. Later they went in procession to her grave where they prayed for the repose of her soul and for her canonization. That afternoon a large cross, a symbol of peace erected on a hill overlooking Kozushima harbor, was dedicated in honor of Julia.

This year, together with Japanese pilgrims and priests, 66 Korean pilgrims led by Bishop Gabriel Kap-Sou Lee of Pusan participated in the ceremonies. After supper the pilgrims gathered for evening prayer and a concert by both local people and the Korean pilgrims.

As the pilgrims were leaving, the island people -- only one of whom is Catholic -- came to say farewell. They gave them various kinds of Omochi, a favorite Japanese food.


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