Unification Association Concerns Aired at the Vatican

Members of Association of Japanese Churches on Unification Association Issues visited the Vatican, Feb. 21 -26, to exchange information and opinions on the Unification Association and other religious cults.

There were 12 members of the delegation, including Kito Masaki, a lawyer working with the National Council of Lawyers Against the “Spiritual Sell” Scam. Also included was one representative each from the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Japan, the Japan Baptist League, and the Episcopal Church of Japan. The other 8 members of the delegation were all Kyodan members, including Rev. Koide Nozomu, chair of the Commission on Mission of the 36th General Assembly period (2009-10) and head of the Kyodan Committee on Unification Association Issues; Rev. Iwasaki Takashi, former chair of the Commission on Mission and presently moderator of Kanagawa District; and Rev. Yoshida Yoshisato, chair of the Kyodan Committee on Unification Association Issues.

Arrangements for this meeting with Vatican representatives of the Roman Catholic Church have been in process for four years. From the Catholic side, the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, (represented by its secretary Bishop Brian Farrell of Abitinae and one other), the Council for Inter-religious Dialog (represented by Undersecretary Monsignor Andrew Thanya-Ana Vissanu and one other) met with us at the office of the chair of the Governor of Vatican City, Cardinal Jovanni Layola, to discuss these issues for an extended time.

Needless to say, the Vatican does not recognize the Unification Association as a Christian church; neither is it in dialog with that organization. The same is true of the Mormon Church and the Jehovah’s Witnesses. We were able to share much information and exchange views on the destructive nature of cults that use brainwashing techniques and damage people’s personalities. While religion normally leads people into happiness, it’s regrettable that sometimes the opposite is true as cults, such as the Unification Association, bring grief to many. Likewise, in Europe the cult “Scientologia” (Scientology) is also becoming a big problem.

The Vatican representatives expressed their support for and appreciation of the efforts of the Association of Japanese Churches on Unification Association Issues, and expressed its desire to see a worldwide conference on the problems posed by cults and sects. They emphasized the need for education and mission outreach.

Likewise, they told us that a similar delegation from Korea had visited them about a month prior to our visit to discuss the same issues. There certainly is a need for more public awareness of the proper roles of religion in society.

We owe much to the efforts of Father Kushi Ritsuo in helping make the arrangements, and we are grateful for the warm welcome we received from all of the various departments in the Vatican and for the opportunity to have an audience with the Pope. We also wish to express our gratitude to Father Wada Makoto, who has worked at the Vatican for 30 years, for his efforts on our behalf and for his translation services.
From Kyodan Shinpo (Kyodan Times)

—Harita Makoto, pastor, Toriizaka Church
Southwest Subdistrict, Tokyo