Pope Francis believes that Japan’s early Christian communities, who despite being persecuted for centuries kept the faith alive, can inspire today’s Catholics.
Speaking to Japanese bishops this morning in the Vatican on the occasion of their ad limina visit, the Holy Father made this point, highlighting how the nation’s ‘hidden Christians’ are keeping the faith alive despite “great danger,” and expulsion of priests and lay missionaries.
In this context, Pope Francis called on the bishops to realize the importance of their role.
“May your priests see in you both a father who is ever available to his sons,” he said, as well as “a brother who remains always at their side to share the happiness and difficulties of their lives.”
Continuing evangelical witness of laity and missionaries, he stressed to the bishops, is critical.
Pope Francis recalled that the “steadfast faith” of St. Francis Zavier and his companions, who brought Christianity to Japan, and of other early Church leaders, could serve as a model to them and their people.
“Even if it means opening our doors and stepping out into our own neighborhoods,” Francis said, “All baptized are called to be part of an evangelizing community.”
To this end, the Jesuit Pope told the bishops to encourage their communities to fully participate in the life of the Church and to look to the ‘hidden Christians,’ who were able to preserve the faith through prayer, for inspiration.
Acknowledging the Catholic community in the nation is small, the Pope highlighted how Japanese society recognizes its many contributions to education, healthcare, and charity.
While noting that the Church in Japan has been experienced many blessings and sorrows, he praised its commitment toward promoting peace.
Pope Francis concluding, entrusting the bishops to Mary’s care and imparting his Apostolic Blessing.
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