"One of the major obstacles to the propagation of faith in Japan seems to be the false identification between Christianity and European culture," said Cardinal Fernando Filoni, Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, in the meeting held in Tokyo with the Catholic bishops of Japan on September 25. Filoni recalled the history of the Catholic faith in Japan, which was marked in the beginning with instances of persecution and martyrdom.

Cardinal Filoni said that in the 1500s, the first Christian missionaries arrived in Japan and "found a fertile land for the proclamation of the Gospel. Despite the persecutions undertaken by Toyotomi Hideyoshi, the number of Catholics grew dramatically (it is believed up to 650,000)". Following the horrific persecutions, the phenomenon of so-called "hidden Christians" (kokure Kirishitan) of the underground Church serve as an "extraordinary testimony" of what happens in following Christ, even under difficult conditions, said the Vatican official. "As in Abraham's prayer, who begged God not to go past his tent, but to stop", said the cardinal, "also the "hidden Christians" of Japan raise to God a sincere invocation of not abandoning the work begun".

Filoni said that obstacles to evangelization result when there is a misleading identification between Christianity and European culture. He said that "perhaps we should rediscover the strength of early evangelization by updating it with current experience and knowledge". And he also added that in the age of globalization, one can not think of preventing or limiting "the presence of non-Japanese missionaries". At the same time, "there is need to focus on a stronger, more engaged evangelization of the same Japanese: bishops, priests, religious men and women, lay people, families, associations, etc. Missionaries can integrate, but not replace".

The meeting in Tokyo with the Japanese bishops is the final meeting with Cardinal Filoni in Japan, which who arrived on September 17. On September 24, during his meeting with priests, religious, and laity in Tokyo, Filoni warned of three "dangers" posed to those involved in spreading the Catholic faith: 1) sectarianism: the banalization of faith, the economic exploitation of the converts, 2) proselytism: the luring of others to adhere to their own doctrine, and 3) idealogism: fedeistic or phariseeic indoctrination, which can be socially dangerous.

"Evangelization," added Cardinal Filoni, "is a personal encounter with Christ, and it is through the proclamation of the Gospel and by contact, that is to say through the humble and generous testimony, that arouses in others the interest in why you believe and act in different way".

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Spero News writer Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.

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