Pope: Honor martyrs by serving those in need
Friday, Nov. 29, 2019
NAGASAKI, Japan (CNS) — While the world knows Nagasaki as the site of a U.S. atomic bomb blast, for the Catholic Church it is also the site of one of the fiercest campaigns of anti-Christian persecution.
Visiting the city Nov. 24, Pope Francis paused for prayer on the hill where St. Paul Miki and 25 others were crucified in 1597; hundreds more were killed in the decades that followed.
For more than 200 years there was not a single Catholic priest in Japan, but small communities of “hidden Christians” kept Catholicism alive by secretly baptizing their children and teaching them the faith.
When priests finally were allowed to return to Japan, not all the “hidden Christians” joined the parishes they established, preferring to preserve the family-focused faith they had learned from their ancestors. Small groups of them still exist today.
On a cold, rainy morning at the martyrs’ memorial, Pope Francis said the place is not so much a reminder of death as of the promise of eternal life in Jesus.
The martyrs’ witness, he said, “confirms us in faith and helps us to renew our dedication and commitment to that missionary discipleship which strives to create a culture capable of protecting and defending all life through the daily ‘martyrdom’ of silent service toward all, especially those in greatest need.”
Pope Francis, who as a young Jesuit in Argentina longed to serve as a missionary in Japan, told the small crowd at the memorial that he “found powerful inspiration in the story of the early missionaries and the Japanese martyrs.”