Tokyo, Japan, Feb 8, 2017 / 03:02 am
A 17th century Catholic Samurai and martyr was beatified during a Mass in Osaka, Japan on Tuesday.
Cardinal Angelo Amato, Prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Causes of Saints, presided over the Beatification Mass of Justo Takayama Ukon, who was declared a martyr by Pope Francis in January last year.
Takayama Ukon was born in 1552 in Japan during the time when Jesuit missionaries were being introduced within the country. By the time Takayama was 12, his father had converted to Catholicism and had his son baptized as “Justo” by the Jesuit Fr. Gaspare di Lella.
Takayama's position in Japanese society as daimyo (a feudal lord) allowed him many benefits, such as owning grand estates and raising vast armies. As a Catholic, Takayama used his power to support and protect the short-lived missionary expansion within Japan, influencing the conversion of thousands of Japanese.
When a time of persecution set in within the country under the reign of Japan's chancellor Toyotomi Hideyoshi in 1587, many newly-converted Catholics abandoned their beliefs.
By the 1620s, most missionaries were either driven out of the country or into underground ministry. These missionary priests would have been of the same era as those featured in the recent movie “Silence” by director Martin Scorsese. Although the film is based on a fictional novel by the Japanese author Shusaku Endo, many of the events and people depicted in “Silence” are real.
Instead of denying their faith, Takayama and his father left their prestigious position in society and chose a life of poverty and exile. Although many of his friends tried to persuade Takayama to deny Catholicism, he remained strong in his beliefs.
Takayama “did not want to fight against other Christians, and this led him to live a poor life, because when a samurai does not obey his 'chief,' he loses everything he has,” Fr. Anton Witwer, a general postulator of the Society of Jesus, told CNA in 2014.