World Cup Gives Japan´s Catholics a Higher Profile

Their Influence Goes Far Beyond Their Numbers

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ROME, JUNE 6, 2002 (ZENIT.orgAvvenire).- Japan´s Catholics have rolled out the welcome mat for World Cup fans.

Catholics in the archipelago have mobilized to offer spiritual services to the thousands of fans who have traveled there to cheer on their national teams.

Although the Church in Japan has fewer than 500,000 faithful, or about 0.36% of the country´s 126 million people, it has great social prestige, in part because of its institutions.

In addition to native Catholics, there are 406,000 immigrant Catholics, the majority Filipinos. Japan has 25 bishops, 943 parishes, 970 native Japanese priests and 6,430 women religious.

In addition, there are more than 300 Japanese missionaries abroad; 730 foreign missionaries in Japan; three diocesan seminaries, and 13 Catholic universities with a total of 35,600 students. Among the latter is the Jesuits´ Sophia University in Tokyo, with over 11,600 students.

Last weekend, media reported on Masses celebrated by Japanese priests for various soccer teams.

The Japanese bishops´ conference has published Mass schedules and the addresses of Catholic churches, in areas frequented by sports fans, as well as its Web page (

The Japanese public is familiar with the work of the Catholic Church, especially because of its educational institutions, which range from kindergartens to universities, but also its hospitals, founded by missionaries who arrived after 1870, following decades of persecution and martyrdom. Today these Catholic institutions enjoy an excellent reputation.

Growing numbers of Japanese have their marriages and funerals blessed according to the Catholic rite. The Church is discerning between those who are following what is «fashionable» from those who have a genuine desire to learn about Catholicism.

Most Japanese are Shintoist or Buddhist. Christians are officially 1% of the population, though 3% claim they are Christians because of the great attraction of the person of Christ.

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