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Japanese bishops call for an anti-nuclear Lent

TOKYO (SE): “Desire is not evil,” the Japanese bishops say in their Lenten Message for this year. “Without appetite, people cannot live a healthy life.”

However, the bishops also insist that appetite must be tempered, lest it lead to self harm or bring suffering and destruction to self or others.

They apply this to the whole of nature, saying that without the capacity to abstain from some things, people can only bring death and destruction to themselves and their environment.

“It is important to recall the accident at the Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant,” the bishops say, in a letter signed by the president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Japan, Archbishop Jun Ikegaga.

The archbishop of Osaka states that we should abolish nuclear power plants immediately.

The letter continues to say that we have already seen the fact that human beings cannot contain the radiation generated in the plants and that we already understand the risks involved are beyond what can be considered reasonable.

The bishops say that the plants were built to provide the energy to satisfy the desire to improve living standards and comfort levels, without honestly acknowledging the overwhelming and uncontrollable damage that could be caused.

They say that in this context, they are encouraging people to live in the spirit of poverty, to be satisfied with less and not be controlled by desire, so that all living creatures and the environment of all people may benefit.

The bishops are encouraging people to live lightly on the earth with sacrifice, so the damage of past excesses may be repaired.

They equate this to suffering for the sake of expiating sin, which brings us closer to Jesus Christ, who suffered for our redemption.

“When we feel spiritually who he is, we touch the illumination, the very holiness of God,” the bishops say, “and this brings our own ugliness into focus. Only then can we ask forgiveness for our sin.”

However, they point out that material possessions are also a necessity in the quest for happiness, but the challenge of Lent is to bring our desires for love and possessions into a balanced focus, which requires ridding ourselves of obsession.

“Let us make this Lent a time to seek spiritual richness,” the letter concludes, “moving away from excessive dependence on all material goods, including energy.”

Speaking with zenit.org, the Japanese ambassador to the Holy See, Hidekazu Yamagughi, said that Japanese people have come to the realisation that they cannot simply consume as much energy as they want.

“We must change atomic energy,” he continued, “using cleaner energy, in particular geothermal energy. It was thought that nuclear energy was very safe, now it is not seen that way.”

The ambassador added that one significant change he has noticed in Japanese society is a decline in people’s belief in science and a rise in their appreciation of the importance of friendship and the bonds of family.

He added that previously many young people did not want to get married. “Now they want to get married,” he observed.

The Japanese bishops conclude by saying that ultimately, love is the primary factor that can make our lives richer and more human. 

Love brings happiness.

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