Cardinal Hamao on Immigrants as Missionaries

Interview With President of Pontifical Council for Migrants and Travelers

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GUADALAJARA, Mexico, OCT. 14, 2004 ( Eucharistic catechesis is needed among immigrants of Catholic countries so that they can become evangelizers of their host cultures, says an Asia cardinal.

Cardinal Stephen Hamao, 74, president of the Pontifical Council for Migrants and Travelers, shared this and other views during an interview at the International Eucharistic Congress in Guadalajara.

Q: What are your experiences as a bishop in your country, Japan?

Cardinal Hamao: We have many Filipinos, Brazilians, Argentines and Peruvians there. In Yokohama, my diocese, where I worked six years ago, we had only 50,000 Japanese Catholics and 70,000 foreign Catholics. They were more numerous than we were, especially the women and children.

Q: Were they good evangelizers?

Cardinal Hamao: The girls especially were very good evangelizers. They struck up a friendship immediately with the Japanese people with whom they lived and worked. Because of their effort, many Japanese converted, and continue to convert.

Q: Does the Catholic Church envision this phenomenon?

Cardinal Hamao: I always encourage immigrants to be evangelizers, and not just workers. I understand that they come to countries such as mine to work, to earn a salary. But, at the same time, they must be Christians.

Q: What is the present situation between Christians — counting the immigrants — and non-Christians in Japan?

Cardinal Hamao: In Japan, there are 120 million inhabitants and barely 150,000 Japanese Catholics. In round numbers, there are 800,000 Catholics in my country, of whom 650,000 are foreigners.

Q: This emphasizes the great need for immigrants to be evangelizers, yes?

Cardinal Hamao: I believe that this International Eucharistic Congress is a good opportunity to reflect on this subject. In fact, every day, emphasis has been placed on the relationship that the Eucharist has with the mission to evangelize life and culture.

Participation in this Eucharistic Congress should encourage many Mexicans, and emigrants worldwide, to be animated by a spirit open to «missionizing.»

Q: Is that the spirit the Holy Father envisioned in his last encyclical?

Cardinal Hamao: Yes, indeed. The Eucharist is the sacrament that makes us be for others, not for ourselves.

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