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Celebrated Catholic at 60th birthday party for nunciature in Tokyo

TOKYO (AsiaNews): On the morning of April 20, the nuncio from the Holy See to Japan, Archbishop Joseph Chennoth, held a garden reception for members of the diplomatic corps and representatives from the world of culture at the nunciature in Tokyo to mark 60 years of diplomatic relations between the Land of the Rising Sun and the Holy See.

Jun Yanagi, the director of the European division of the Japanese Ministry for Foreign Affairs, and writer, Sadako Ogata, were among the guests of honour. Yanagi gave the keynote address.

Ogata is known across Japan and internationally for her activities in the field of diplomacy and literature and, more importantly, for her visible witness to her Catholic faith.

From 1991 to 2000, she has served as United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, a role she did not limit to her office in Geneva, but visited groups of refugees wherever they were, especially Africa.

Archbishop Chennoth became the apostolic nuncio to Japan by vocation rather than appointment. On 11 March last year, when an earthquake and tsunami hit Sendai, the archbishop, who was stationed in Tanzania, saw the television images of the disaster.

“The first thought that went through my mind,” he told the gathering, “was a prayer: God let me go to Japan to console the people. Three months later it seems that God had heard my prayer.”

Within days of arriving in the country, he went to the destroyed city of Ishinomaki, together with the bishops of Japan and Korea, to pray for the victims and their families.

The archbishop expressed recognition and gratitude to the many people whose anonymous dedication has allowed the nunciature in Japan to perform useful work for decades.

He named two as being significant, Sister Cecilia Matsumoto, who for over 10 years has done all the secretarial work, and Dominic Enomoto, a man of Vietnamese origin who has been employed as a driver for over 20 years.

Both were presented with papal medals.

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