.- The Japanese Ambassador to the Holy See says he’s “very grateful” to Pope Benedict XVI, after the Vatican announced that earthquake and tsunami victims in Japan would benefit from money collected on Holy Thursday at St. Peter’s Basilica.
Hidekazu Yamaguchi told CNA April 14, “My message to the Pope is that I am very grateful for his charity and all the people of Japan are very grateful for his support.”
The ancient custom of distributing alms on Holy Thursday is seen as a response to the “new commandment” of Christ at the Last Supper to “love one another, as I have loved you.” The name of Maundy Thursday or “Dies Mandatum” meaning “Day of the New Commandment” is drawn from this tradition.
Ambassador Yamaguchi explained how the money raised would be put to use. “All this money will be directed to the victims because they have flown from their homes with nothing, completely nothing. ID cards, everything is missing. Every family needs money to survive. So the money will go towards them.”
He did stress, however, that he wasn’t simply grateful for the material support provided by the Catholic Church. “Three days after the earthquake the Pope prayed for us at the Angelus. He said he was beside us spiritually. All Japanese people were grateful for that and, especially, Japanese Catholics very much rejoiced at these words.”
The giving of alms to the people of Japan comes as just one part of the Pope Benedict’s schedule for Holy Week, which was unveiled today. Other highlights include the traditional Way of the Cross or “Via Crucis” at the Coliseum on Good Friday and his address to the city and the world, “Urbi et Orbi,” on Easter Sunday itself.