Why There Are So Few Catholics in Japan

Bishop of Okinawa Gives His View

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VATICAN CITY, MAR. 29, 2001 (Zenit.org).- Why does Japan, with a population of about 130 million, have only 447,000 Catholics?

Bishop Berard Toshio Oshikawa of Okinawa was asked that question over Vatican Radio. He and other Japanese bishops are in Rome for their quinquennial «ad limina» visit to the Pope.

«Christianity is accepted by the people,» the bishop said. «About 70% of Japanese express great appreciation for it, but it is very difficult to convert people. The Church is still regarded in Japan as a Western product, because, when the war ended, the missionaries present were from European countries and America.»

«The missionaries have worked hard to create a local Church,» he added, «but we are always speaking about a Church based on a theological foundation of European matrix and, therefore, culturally remote from Japan.»

Because of this, the bishops are promoting the inculturation of the Christian faith. However, in this process, especially as regards the liturgy, «there is still much confusion today,» he said. «It is not totally clear how this task of inculturation must be implemented specifically. It is something very difficult and a problem that affects us all, as missionaries and Christians.»

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