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Samurai takes first step to sainthood

OSAKA (SE): What is a statue of a 16th century Japanese samurai doing in Plaza Dilao in downtown Manila in The Philippines?

And what is more, why is the Japanese fighting man beatified as an honorary Filipino also being beatified as a hero of the Church and a role model for Christians in his native Japan?

The Samurai of Christ, Justo Takayama Ukon (1552 to 1615), was beatified in Osaka, Japan, on February 7.

A samurai and a land holder, he and his family defied the emperor’s order to abandon their faith and went underground, cherishing their faith despite loss of wealth and absence of priests to nurture them in their struggle.

Takayama had been born into a Catholic family in Nara in 1552, but voluntarily gave up the land and castle that he had inherited in favour of his faith. Along with 300 other Christians he was expelled from Japan in 1614 and fled to The Philippines.

Dilao district, which today is known as Paco and at that time was home to some 3,000 Japanese immigrants, mostly religious refugees like Takayama, welcomed them and gave them comfort.

But somehow his health had suffered and 40 days after he arrived in Manila he died on 5 February 1615.

As a Japanese man who came as a refugee seeking welcome, the witness of his life has much to say to the world of today. Takayama is a Filipino, as well as a Japanese saint.

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