Cardinal Peter Seiichi Shirayanagi, Archbishop Emeritus of Tokyo, died at the age of 81 on December 30. The Japanese cardinal was remembered by the Pope for his “unfailing commitment to the spread of the Gospel in Japan.”
Cardinal Shirayanagi was ordained a priest in 1954, made bishop in 1966 and was appointed as titular archbishop in 1970. He was created and made a cardinal in 1994 by Pope John Paul II.
Many initiatives were carried out under his direction within the institutions of the Catholic Church of Japan. Among the most noteworthy achievements were his involvement in promoting unity between Japanese Catholics and Catholics in other Asian states and his efforts to promote global peace and disarmament.
Cardinal Shirayanagi was a pioneer in reaching out to other Catholics in Asia. In 1989, he led a landmark delegation of Japanese Catholics to meet with their Chinese counterparts on equal terms to seek forgiveness for sins committed by the Japanese Imperial Army against the Chinese, to promote solidarity among all Catholics and help rebuild Catholic structures within the country.
As Chairman of the Episcopal Commission for Social Activities in the 1970’s, he was able to create active evangelization policies, including those that addressed the problems of refugees, foreign aid and discriminatory legislation.
Pope Benedict XVI spoke warmly of the cardinal in a telegram addressed to Archbishop of Tokyo, Most Rev. Peter Takeo Okada. In the letter, the Holy Father expressed his sorrow at the loss of Cardinal Shirayanagi but also his gratitude for the prelate’s “unfailing commitment to the spread of the Gospel in Japan in his many years as priest and bishop, his work for the promotion of justice and peace, and his tireless efforts on behalf of refugees.”
Funeral rites for Cardinal Shirayanagi will be held on Tuesday in the Cathedral of Tokyo.