Archbishop Tarcisius Isao Kikuchi, Archbishop of Tokyo, warns some of his population risks extinction due to cultural standards and has made a strong appeal to recognize protecting life from conception to natural death.
In an exclusive interview with Zenit whose Senior Vatican Correspondent, Deborah Castellano Lubov, is on the Papal Flight for Pope Francis’ Apostolic Trip to Japan and Thailand, Nov. 19-26, the Japanese Archbishop expressed this concern. The Asian prelate is following the trip and will be present with Pope Francis at all his major events during the ‘Japan stretch’ of Francis’ eight-day, two-nation Asian tour.
In the interview, Zenit has had the opportunity to learn all about the Pope’s visit, the realities of Christians in Japan and for society at large, and some of the themes likely to be most important in the days ahead. Here is our exclusive interview:
ZENIT: How could you describe the atmosphere in Japan, which has been looking forward to welcoming the Pope? And what do you hope Pope Francis will leave Japan?
His Excellency Archbishop Kikuchi: Catholics, or even the entire community of Christians, are a tiny minority in Japan, thus, the Holy Father is not well known to the general public. We rarely see or hear Japanese media mention the Holy Father. Even among government officials or politicians, the importance of the Holy Father in international relations as a moral authority is not deeply understood. For many, the visit has been considered yet another trip made by one of these “famous” religious leaders. So, what the Catholic Church in Japan has been doing is to try as much as possible to disseminate information on the Holy Father, the role of the Holy See in international relations and, of course, on the Catholic Church in general. I hope the Holy Father would leave a deep impact in the hearts of many through his message of love, peace and hope so that many would find the key to choose the better way to reach hope for the future.
ZENIT: The motto of the trip to Japan is a call to promote and protect life. To what is this motto addressed? And why is this necessary?
Archbishop Kikuchi: Today, the ”Gospel of life (the term by Pope John Paul II)” is truly needed in Japanese society where human life is not respected, human beings are valued by how much they could contribute to the development of the society. And disabled people are marginalized, or sometimes even the right to live for disabled people is not protected. Today in Japan, so many people are lost in finding hope for the future, feeling isolated or marginalized. The economic boom is a tale of the past. With few exceptions, the majority of the youth cannot find stable jobs even after going through a number of years of higher studies. Young and old are isolated in society because no one cares for them. Such a beautiful tradition as community support has also become tales of the past, especially in big cities where the population is growing rapidly. In rural areas, the population is aging and communities are facing the danger of extinction. Isolation, poverty, no respect for human life and the inability to find hope for the future are killing people in modern Japan. That is why we have to promote and protect life.
ZENIT: In Japan, the local Catholic Church suffered a long and cruel persecution in the past centuries. What experience has that left Japan’s Catholic Church? Also, can you tell us more about the small community of Japanese Catholics in the nation?
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