CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 15 September 2018

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Kneel in front of the holy people executioner orders

YONEZAWA (SE): All 53 people who were martyred in Yonezawa, in the Fukushima province of Japan on 12 January 1629, were lay people.

Their leader was Blessed Luis Amakasu Uemon, a high ranking samurai in the Uesugi household. 

He was baptised in Tokyo, or what was then known as Edo, around the year 1610, without the knowledge of his master.

In his blog of 14 May 2009, the bishop of Niigata, Bishop Tarcisius Isao Kikuchi, says that upon returning to Yonezawa, the samurai invited two of his sons to join him in the study of the  catechism. Eventually, both of them were baptised too.

Blessed Amakasu then asked his two sons to bring the good news to their wider family, even though they understood well that the central government at the time had banned Christianity.

Despite the government prohibition and despite the fear that they might also be executed, as had happened to the 26 martyrs in Nagasaki, people continued to join the fledgling community, which grew to over 3,000 members.

Bishop Kikuchi laments that today that thriving community of over 3,000 has shrunk to less than 300 in Yonezawa. He points out that the remarkable thing about the expansion of the samurai’s work is that there was no priest with them.

He says that in all probability a foreign missionary managed to visit them once or twice a year at the most.

“But because of the good example Blessed Amakasu and others showed to people, so many joined the community. Then finally, because of strong pressure from the central government, Uesugi decided to arrest leaders of the Christians,” Bishop Kikuchi relates.

On 12 January 1629, arrests were made and 53 of them were taken away for immediate execution in Hokusanbara, Yonezawa.

 

In an interesting twist, Bishop Kikuchi notes, “It is said that at the moment of the execution, an officer told the crowd to kneel down, since these people were not criminals, but holy people. They were respected by many.”

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