Japan, a country near yet far from Korea, hosts a Catholic Church that is near both in distance and in feeling, says a Korean priest who gives us his views of the Japanese Church, as he has seen it during his 19 years in Japan.
He mentions that the conservatives in the
government still have a colonial mentality, and that he has felt some
prejudice among the people because of his Korean nationality, though
this attitude is changing, he says. Visiting the historic sites near
where he works, he sees what the Korean ancestors have given to Japan
and feels a sense of pride in being Korean. The Japanese are beginning
to look at their past, feeling embarrassed, and wanting to atone for it.
estimate of Japanese martyrs range from 40 to 50 thousand. The
persecutions started in the 16th century and continued until 1873, when
it officially ended. However, the government, up to 1945 and even after,
has been reluctant to disown the crimes of the past, and the Japanese
themselves have difficulty, with their unique religious disposition, to leave the past behind.
The missionaries who arrived after the persecution did
not make sufficient effort, he believes, to inculurate Christianity but
merely translated Christian culture into Japan instead of adapting the
externals of the religion to the culture and the
traditions they found there.Furthermore, the Church's reliance on help
from foreign aid gave the impression that the religion was a foreign
import. A view the Church has never been able to erase.
of 400 years ago had 400 thousand Catholics. Today, surprisingly, the Catholic Church
has approximately the same numbers: 444 thousand Catholics, now organized in 16 dioceses and 797 parishes, with 1,475 priests and 5,766 religious. Compared to the Korean Church of today, it is a far less active Church. Especially when
visiting the rural areas you will see parishes, even on Sundays, with no more than 10 people at
Mass, and most parishes would have less than 10 people baptized in a year.
he goes on to say we cannot say that Japan has not accepted
Christianity; the Christians of today are respected. The 854
kindergartens and mission schools are a good example of this. Not only
Christians but even some non-Christians are interested in providing their children with a Christian foundation for their children's education.
The educated Japanese often refer to Christian teachings in their works. And when it comes to marriage, many Japanese prefer, even more than the Shinto, the Christian rites for weddings.
The Japanese Church is spiritually strong, the priest says, though few Japanese are Catholic. The priests often do their own cleaning and washing, taking are of all their needs by themselves. They often teach catechism and Scripture to just one person and yet it takes your breath away, he says, to see how thorough they continue to be in their pastoral work.
Two years ago when the tsunami devastated Japan many
Christians were involved in the clean up and caring for the injured.
The Church also continues its concern for the foreign workers in Japan,
offering Masses in different languages, a good example for the Korean Church to follow.
He ends the article by asking for prayers that Japanese Christianity
adapt itself more to Japanese culture than it has in the past,
understand and put into practice the teachings of Vatican II, and that it will find a way to grow and prosper in the years ahead.