.- Pope Benedict XVI may soon approve a decree for the beatification of 188 Japanese martyrs, Cardinal Stephen Fumio Hamao told UCA News at the end of March.
The Japanese Cardinal, who headed the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerants, from 1998 to 2006, and still resides in Rome, said he anticipates the ceremony will take place in Japan, probably in November.
Cardinal Hamao, 77, played a central role at a February meeting of 20 Cardinals and archbishops at the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints to discuss the cause for the 188 Japanese martyrs.
The prelate reportedly presented a compelling case for their beatification, saying they were killed “not because they were political opponents, but by reason of their Christian faith."
He stressed that "though many were samurai and knew how to fight, they nevertheless chose the path of non-violent resistance, and that is also very significant for people today."
Of the 188 people who were killed in the 17th century, all are Japanese and all but four are lay people – mostly women but also many children. The other four are priests; one is a Jesuit, Fr. Peter Kibe.
The Cardinal said the members of the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints later "voted unanimously in favor of their beatification."
The Cardinal said he believes the beatification will be important for all Japanese because it highlights the fact that "the right to believe in a religion is a fundamental human right."
While Japan guarantees freedom of religion, it “is not so much recognized by the people,” the Cardinal said. “Religion in Japan is seen as a question of family tradition, not personal conviction.”