NAGASAKI, Japan (ChurchMilitant.com) - A leading Vatican prelate is calling on Catholics to resume the evangelization of Japan.
Cardinal Fernando Filoni, Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, told an audience in the archdiocese of Nagasaki Tuesday that the time has come to "resume missio for non-Christians." Catholics, he said, must "put in the eyes of non-Christians the identity of Jesus through their lives, approaching them all with patience and friendship."
The Christianization of Japan will not be easy, the cardinal conceded. Hearkening back to the centuries of extraordinary persecution Japanese Catholics suffered, he reminded his audience that living and sharing God's grace is challenging. Even so, he noted, this same challenge was encountered and met "in Jerusalem, as well as in Rome and Greece at the time of the Apostles, and not only in the early centuries of the Church."
Filoni observed that faith in Christ has always been regarded as revolutionary, owing to man's fallen nature. The recovery of missionary zeal, he affirmed, will ultimately transform Japanese society:
[T]he present difficulties will not disappear magically in the near future, given the acceleration of secularization of society. However, you must not resign yourself to the immensity of problems because the essential work is accomplished by grace, that is, from God. God loves the Japanese and knows the problems and anguish of this people.
Cardinal Filoni echoed his call to arms in Nagasaki during a visit to Osaka.
Japan, he said, "is not immune from the evils that afflict our century: secularization, religious indifference, ethical subjectivism, loss of the sense of the sacred, that afflict many ancient Western Christian communities."
He noted that it has been four-and-a-half centuries since the first Catholic missionaries landed on Japanese shores and that, today, Christians are a tiny minority in the country.
The problem afflicting the Church in Japan, he said "is faith." Christ is too-little pursued; there is no "intimate relationship with Him in prayer" and "when this is lacking, the face of the Church is blurry, the mission loses strength and conversion goes backwards."
Cardinal Filoni urged Catholics to go into Japanese society — afflicted by solitude, suicide and rising despair — to offer hope which is the message of salvation through Jesus Christ.
Looking to the model of St. Theresa of Calcutta, he advised, "Do not worry about the numbers. Help one person at a time and always start with the person closest to you. ... It is the same evangelistic way of Jesus: to announce the good news of the Kingdom of God by looking into the eyes of individual people, in parishes, in hospitals, in schools, in workplaces or in the streets, anywhere."
Cardinal Filoni observed that the Church in Japan faces great challenges and great hope. Speaking to a group of seminarians, he offered them hope:
It is true that the priests, religious and you the seminarians of Japan are small in number but the power of salt and light stems not from quantity but from quality and authenticity. Although the Apostles were only twelve, with zeal and with the power of the grace of Christ, they carried His message everywhere.