Thursday, August 3, 2023 – Tokyo

Today is our third day in in Tokyo, and our final day of leisure before our formal program begins tomorrow as we will travel to Hiroshima

Today, I want to recognize our tremendously gracious and helpful host during our time here in Japan, Dr. Hiro Miyazaki. He has been instrumental in helping arrange our itinerary and is priceless in the assistance he is providing with guidance from the airport, through the subways and train stations, to making reservations and setting up meetings with various individuals, let alone translating and offering great background information on a variety of cultural and historical topics. Many thanks to Hiro! (pictured on subway with myself)

 Yesterday, Wednesday, we visited St. Ignatius Catholic Church in Tokyo, the largest Catholic parish in all of Japan. The Jesuits staff the parish. Next door are the Provincial headquarters for the Society of Jesus and a rather large residence for many of them. In the adjacent neighborhood  is the Sophia University, a Jesuit founded Catholic University.

We were met there by Fr. Etsuo Sekine, SJ, and Fr. Robert Chiesa, SJ along with Mercedarian Sr. Shizue “Filo” Hirota from Tokyo.  Interestingly, Sr. Filo is a member of the Preparatory Committee for the Synod on Synodality! Brava, Sr. Filo! I will see her again in Rome in October. Sr. Filo pictured here as we presented her with a small gift during dinner last night.

Here is a photo of our group during Mass at a small chapel at St. Ignatius parish.

As I travel in Japan, I am more aware that I am a true ‘pilgrim’ in this Pilgrimage of Peace. Allowing the time to pray and wrestle with this human wound of war and especially of nuclear arms and atomic power; discussing the issues with experts, and taking hard questions from reporters forces me to honestly face the issues, wrestling with a proper gospel response.

Yesterday, Archbishop Wester and I sat down for an interview with Mr. Masato Tainaka, (pictured left greeting myself) a reporter from the Asahi Shimbun, one of the largest newspapers in Japan. Mr. Masato is the reporter who covers nuclear arms, and demonstrated his expertise during our interview. He was very respectful, but pointed in his questions. He did his homework. This was a good experience for me, even though I do not claim to have ‘all the answers’ it allowed a constructive exchange which gave me pause to think through the challenging reality we face on the topics of war and nuclear arms and the Gospel response.

We cannot allow the present world situation to cause us to ‘normalize’ aggression and war. Rather, where these realities exist, we are called to clearly see the human tragedy that takes place as a result. Beyond loss of life and destruction of property and creation, there is human drama unfolding of pain, fear, destruction of human life and families, food insecurity, and many other violations of basic human dignity and rights.

When we are honest about the destruction of society caused by war, we begin to awaken to the reasons for claiming “war never again”. “No” to nuclear arms. Mindfulness of the destruction and devastation of war is a strong motivation to an earnest commitment to a long, hard road of negotiations to resolve the conflicts that arise between nations.

There is much for the human family to wrestle with, from deterrence, to non-proliferation of nuclear arms, to the absolute prohibition of them, and the broader discussion of our relationship with atomic power. In recent years, Pope Francis has gone so far as to say that not only is the use of nuclear weapons immoral, but also the possession of them as well! These days of prayer and conversations will only intensify as we transition to Hiroshima and Nagasaki to take part in this year’s commemoration of the atomic bombings of both cities.

For now, since the work for peace can never be separated from announcing the Gospel, I will leave you with just a few instructive words from Jesus that are at the heart of why we must work for peace, and wrestle with the hard issue of how to eliminate nuclear weapons from our world.

Matthew 5:3-12 Beatitudes

v.9    Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.

Matthew 5:21-22

Jesus said: “You have heard that it was said to your ancestors, ‘You shall not kill; and whoever kills will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you, whoever is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment,”

v. 25 “settle with your opponent quickly …”

Matthew 5:38-48

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth. ‘ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well.”

(Photos are courtesy of our two communications directors: Helen McClenahan and Leslie Radigan)