Upon completing their “ad limina” visit with Pope Benedict, a delegation of bishops from Japan are returning to their homeland with the mission of imparting a message of the true hope to Japanese society.
On Saturday, the group of Japanese prelates heard the Pope encourage them to “seek new ways of bringing alive the message of Christ in the cultural setting of modern Japan. Even though Christians form only a small percentage of the population, the faith is a treasure that needs to be shared with the whole of Japanese society." As an example of this evangelistic fervor, Benedict pointed to St. Francis Xavier, who was born 500 years ago this year.
Message of Hope
The Holy Father told the bishops that, “The world is hungry for the message of hope that the Gospel brings. Even in countries as highly developed as yours, many are discovering that economic success and advanced technology are not sufficient in themselves to bring fulfillment to the human heart.
Concerned about the secularizing trend in Japan, Benedict XVI exhorted the bishops to “Remind people that there is more to life than professional success and profit."
Going on to quote from his Encyclical "Deus caritas est," the Holy Father encouraged the Japanese churchmen to lead their faithful "towards 'that encounter with God in Christ which awakens their love and opens their spirits to others.' This is the great hope that Christians in Japan can offer their compatriots; it is not foreign to Japanese culture, but rather it reinforces and gives new impetus to all that is good and noble in the heritage of your beloved nation.
The Pontiff also explained that they can use the Church’s reputation and many contributions to Japanese society as an opportunity to engage in dialogue and share the joy they have found in Christ.
Young people, the Pope warned, "are at risk of being deceived by the glamour of modern secular culture" and its "false hopes." The resulting disillusion "not infrequently leads to depression and despair, even to suicide."
Instead of succumbing secular society’s values, Benedict XVI called on the bishops to help the youth direct their "youthful energy and enthusiasm… towards the things of God, which alone are sufficient to satisfy their deepest longings."
Since over half of Japan's Catholic population is formed of immigrants, the Holy Father also counseled the Church leaders to “experience the true catholicity of God's people” through them.
“By taking steps to ensure that all are made to feel welcome in the Church," he told the bishops, "you can draw on the many gifts that the immigrants bring. At the same time, you need to remain vigilant in ensuring that the liturgical and disciplinary norms of the universal Church are carefully observed."
The pontiff closed his talk with the Japanese delegation by praising their country’s "accumulated wisdom” and "her stance on the world political stage in the last 60 years." He told the prelates: "you have made the voice of the Church heard on the enduring importance of this witness, all the greater in a world where armed conflicts bring so much suffering to the innocent."
Before parting with the bishops, the Pope recalled the forthcoming beatification of 188 Japanese martyrs, saying it "offers a clear sign of the strength and vitality of Christian witness in your country's history."