Learning from our Catholic Brethren

“Learning from our Catholic Brethren,” a seminar for laity and clergy sponsored by the Commission on Ecumenical Ministries, was held on Sept. 5, 2009 at the Kichijoji Catholic Church in Tokyo. There, we listened to a presentation on Catholicism by the head priest, Father Miyazaki Yasushi. We often associate Catholicism in Japan with the kakure (hidden) Christians (hiding from persecution during the Edo Period) and how various local customs were adopted into their worship. On the other hand, there were senpuku (laying in waiting) Christians, as Miyazaki prefers to call them, who faithfully passed down Catholic worship. people said he prefers to call them. Miyazaki himself is a descendent of senpuku (laying in waiting) Christians.
Miyazaki carefully explained many things about Catholic history, much of which we thought we knew about but really did not. The two-hours seminar went by very quickly, as he related to us such things as ecumenical relations since Vatican II, the priestly wardrobe and liturgical motions of the mass, and the liturgical hymns that are sung. He invited anyone who wanted to stay for mass later that day to do so, and several of the 70 laity and clergy in attendance were able to do that. (Tr. TB)
–Yoshioka Mitsuhito, Kichijoji Church pastor
Chair, Commission on Ecumenical Ministries
 Nishi Tokyo District 
Nishi Tokyo District News
Historical Background
There was a period in Japanese history when the Christian faith was prohibited for 260 years. Prior to prohibition, the Catholic Church was instrumental in spreading the faith. Christians were known as Kirishitan. (This was a Japanese transliteration of the word “Christian” in Portuguese.) In the years since modern Japan opened its doors to Christianity, the Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant denominations have built many churches. Last year marked the 150th anniversary of Protestant mission in Japan. With the exception of certain individuals and local churches, it cannot be claimed that these Christian churches have engaged one another in an assertive and continuing way to create fellowship with one another.
Many Protestants may have learned in school about the coming of Christianity to Japan in the 16th century; however, they know very little about the Catholic Church in Japan today. It is important note, that through the ecumenical movement, Catholics and Protestants worked on a common translation of the Bible, producing the New Common Translation (Shin Kyodoyaku) in 1987. However, for the average Protestant lay person and pastor, even though they are aware of the presence of the Catholic Church, they are provided very few opportunities to encounter the actual Catholic Church of today. For this reason, West Tokyo District planned a gathering entitled “Learning from the Catholics.”
Let us start with the first history of when Christianity was brought to Japan. In 1549 a Basque man from Spain named Francisco Xavier came on a Portuguese ship to bring Christianity to Japan. At that time Japan was in the midst of internal turmoil. This period is known as the Period of Warring States, during which no single power was able to bring Japan under one rule. It was during this half century that many missionaries were able to propagate the faith, bringing the Christian population to 200,000. Some estimates are as high as 400,000 to 700,000. The total population of Japan at this time was estimated to be 20 million.
During this period, wine, Western clocks, eye glasses, and Western printing press technology were introduced to Japan and also bread. (In Japanese, bread is called pan, which is derived from the Portuguese word for bread.) From the importation of Christian art, indigenous Japanese Christian art developed. The first man to attain supreme power in Japan, Oda Nobunaga, decided to protect and preserve Christianity. He did this not because he valued the faith, but rather because he saw it as a useful part of a strategy to engage the world beyond Japan. However, the man who ruled over Japan after Oda’s death, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, expelled all priests from Japan in 1587. Then in 1597, he executed 6 missionaries and 20 Japanese priests and lay people. These are known today as the 26 Holy Martyrs.
The man who followed Toyotomi, Tokugawa Ieyasu, declared in 1613 that Christianity be prohibited in Japan. The Tokugawa government brainwashed the populace into believing that Christianity was a dangerous religion. Neighborhood groups were set up to spy on one another and to inform the authorities, if necessary. One person’s crime was cause for punishment of the whole collective. Aslso, everyone was forced to belong to a Buddhist temple. As a result of these policies, the Kirishitan were to have been exterminated.
However, there were people who persevered to carry on the Christian faith. Outwardly they professed being Buddhist, but in secret they protected and passed on the Christian faith. Some were executed because informants told the authorities. It was only later that history proved that the Christian faith survived. Two hundred years after missionaries were expelled from Japan, the Christian faith was preserved by several hundred thousand people of faith. These people, known as the Kakure Kirishitan(hidden Christians), had been cut off from Rome for 250 years and thus have evolved their own form of faith. Our Catholic guest lecturer that day spoke much about these differences. (Tr. JM)
–Kawakami Yoshiko, pastor
Okubo Church, Tokyo District’s North Subdistrict
Chair, KNL Editorial Committee
「カトリックに学ぼう」の歴史的背景
 かつて日本ではキリスト教信仰が約260年に渡って完全に禁じられていた。禁じられる前の半世紀余りの間、日本にはローマ・カトリックの信仰がもたらされ、キリシタンkirishitanと呼ばれていた。(ポルトガル語のクリスチャンの日本語化)。禁教が解かれてカトリック、プロテスタント、正教会の各宗派の教会が建てられた後~2009年は所謂プロテスタント宣教150周年であった~カトリックとプロテスタントの間は、個人や個々の教会の交わりはあったとしても継続的に積極的な交流が為されてきたとは言い難い。現在、多くのプロテスタント信徒は日本のカトリック史について、学校の「社会科または日本史」で16世紀の「キリスト教伝来」に関する部分で習うが、現代のカトリック教会について詳しいとは言えない。勿論、エキュメニカル運動に伴う交流と共に、1978年にはカトリック・プロテスタント各宗派による聖書の共同訳、1987年には新共同訳が公刊されている。しかし一般の信徒や多くの牧師はローマ・カトリック教会の存在を尊重しつつも、現状に触れる機会が少ない。そういう事情を背景にして、西東京教区の「カトリックに学ぼう」と題した集いを紹介する。
 先にキリスト教伝来史を改めて概観しておく。1549年スペイン・バスク出身の神父フランシスコ・ザビエルFrancisco de Xavierがポルトガル船に乗って訪れ、日本にキリスト教をもたらした。日本は内乱が続き、強力な統一支配者がいない(戦国時代)Warring States periodであった。それから半世紀の間に危険な海域を越えて来日した宣教師達の努力によって信徒の数は20万以上となった。
 40万~70万説もある。総人口が推定二千万とされる頃である。ワイン、西洋時計、眼鏡、活版印刷術、パンpan (日本では今もbreadをボルトガル風発音でpanと呼ぶ)などがもたらされ、キリシタン美術も生まれた。この間に強力な立場になった織田信長は、信仰によってではなく、世界を視野に入れた思惑によってキリスト教伝道を保護した。しかし信長の死後、全国統一した豊臣秀吉は1587年に神父達の国外追放令を出し、1597年には6人の宣教師と20人の日本人修道士と信徒を処刑した。26聖人殉教26 Martysである。次いで政権を握った徳川家康が1613年に、完全に禁教とした。徳川幕府は、キリシタンは恐ろしい存在だと民衆を洗脳し、互いを監視して告発させ、周囲も連帯責任で死罪と定めた。すべての人を仏教寺に所属させた。この結果全国のキリシタンは全滅したはずであった。しかし表向きは仏教徒を装いながら、キリスト教信仰を密かに継承し守り通した人達がいた。中には、密告されて死罪になった人々もいた。しかし宣教師が国外に追放されてから200年以上も、数万の信徒が信仰を守り通していたことが、後にわかるのである。この人達は、禁制が解かれてから、ローマ・カトリックに属した人達と、250年の内に変化した独自の信仰スタイルを守っている人達がいる。講演の中では、この区別について、カトリック教会の視点から語られている。