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Fukushima remembers The Philippines

NIIGATA (SE) : Bishop Tarcisius Isao Kikuchi, from the devastated diocese of Niigata in the heart of the area affected by the Great Eastern Earthquake and tsunami of 11 March 2010, is encouraging his people not to forget those who reached out to them at the time and to remember to do the same favour for others who are suffering.

“During the Great East Japan Earthquake we were given courage by the solidarity that people from all over the world afforded us. Our fears turned into hope and instead of anxiety we were given peace of mind,” the bishop says in his pastoral letter for the New Year, Living our Lives with Grateful Hearts.

He says, “From the very first days of that tragic event, the Catholic Church in Japan, with (All Japan) as its rallying cry, lent its support to the Sendai area. The help it has shown has come in the form of volunteers who worked in the affected areas, those who provided logistical support, those who prayed and those who gave donations, plus others who gave other forms of support.”

However, as people remember with gratitude the helping hands that were so freely stretched out to them, Bishop Kikuchi says that we cannot consider our gratitude to be complete unless we offer the same helping hands to others in their hour of need.

He draws attention to the typhoon that swept through Leyte and Samar in The Philippines on November 8 last year, calling on people to be generous in their response, especially as so many people from that country sit in the same churches and worship with them on Sundays.

“The death toll was enormous. We know that there are many Filipinos living in our diocese and there are those among them whose relatives and acquaintances were among the typhoon victims,” the bishop says.

He adds that despite the poverty of the Filipino people, financial help was received in Niigata and Sendai during the worst times after the earthquake hit.

He says that he was heartened to see parishioners at Shinjo Church on television where they organised a prayer and benefit afternoon for the victims of Haiyan and even more gratified to see the wider community support offered through their action.

He adds that responding to others in their hour of need is an essential ingredient of gratitude, especially at a time when there are still many needs at a local level as a result of the tsunami and the earthquake.

“With grateful hearts, let us now remember how important it is to help and support one another. If we have received much, let us show our gratitude by practicing our faith with acts of love for those in need,” Bishop Kikuchi says.

“Much as I would like to say that, with the passage of time, the tsunami affected areas have bounced back, unfortunately that cannot be stated with any certainty. Catholic volunteer groups working in areas along the coast have given us regular reports almost on a daily basis through e-mails and the consensus is that the road to recovery will not be a quick one,” Bishop Kikuchi writes.

He says that among other things there are still people who cannot return to their homes because of the radioactivity emanating from the crippled nuclear reactors.

“There are still a lot of people who cannot see a clear future and suffer from anxiety over health and everyday living conditions. We can only imagine how many people want to live ordinary lives, but cannot do so, even though what hinders them are things they could not control and was no fault of their own,” the bishop continues.

In October last year, Niigata celebrated its centennial as a diocese and asked parishioners to submit a signed mission statement regarding their intention to spread the faith.

The bishop says that as a result, the diocese is able to make four commitments to the future in facing the next 100 years.

The bishop says that the diocese committed itself to building communities filled with joy and compassion by overcoming differences created by age, nationality and cultural diversity.

He added that the realisation that the Catholic Church has many responsibilities in society has led his diocese to make a commitment to keeping a healthy communication up within the diocese, among parishes and with civil groups.

But maybe most importantly, he said people made a commitment to continue nurturing and deepening their faith, so that they may be witnesses of the gospel both through word and deed in the midst of contemporary society.

The bishop ends his New Year Greeting by encouraging people to be inspired by the witness of Blessed Louis Uemon Amakasu, one of the 53 martyrs executed in Yonezawa in his diocese.


He prays that inspired by our forefathers in faith, that we will face the realities of contemporary society with courage and through our actions will always strive to witness to the love of Christ.

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