CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 10 November 2018

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Respect separation of state and religion Japanese bishops urge government

TOKYO (UCAN): The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Japan has written to the country’s prime minister, Shinzo Abe, demanding strict observance of the constitutional separation of state-sponsored ceremonies and the imperial family’s private religious ones when the change of emperors takes place in 2019.
 
On the final day of its February 19 to 22 annual plenary session in Tokyo, the bishop’s conference adopted a petition titled, Request on separation of state and religion upon the emperors’ abdication and installation. 
 
“In the ceremonies for the emperors’ abdication and accession, (we hope the government) will strictly observe the principle of separation of state and religion prescribed by the Constitution of Japan and clarify the distinction between national acts and the imperial family’s private ritual events,” the bishops said.
 
The emperor, Akihito, will abdicate on 30 April 2019, and the crown prince, Naruhito, will succeed to the throne the next day on May 1.
 
During Akihito’s enthronement ceremonies in 1990, the government not only paid for the imperial family’s private religious ceremony, Daijosai, but the heads of the three branches of government—legislative, executive and judicial—attended the ceremony. The government also introduced traditional religious rituals of the imperial family into the main Ceremony of Enthronement.
 
The bishops criticised these previous confusions, saying they “do not correspond to the principle of separation of state and religion provided by the Constitution of Japan.” They said it was “very regrettable” that the government will reportedly repeat this for the upcoming ceremonies.
 
The bishops said the principle of the separation of state and religion was “learned from reflection on history that Japan had fought wars under the emperor-centred national Shinto religion and had violated the human rights and peace of many people in the world, especially Asian people.”
 
The bishops added, “The Japanese government has a responsibility to never forget that unfortunate history and to not follow the same pattern.” 

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