A Japanese Catholic Samurai who died in the 17th century in exile, will be declared Blessed during a Mass in Osaka on Tuesday. Pope Francis has sent Cardinal Angelo Amato, Prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Causes of Saints, to preside over the Beatification Mass of Justo Takayama Ukon.
Born into a family of landowners in 1552, Ukon converted to Christianity at the age of 12 after coming into contact with Jesuit missionaries. When Shogun Toyotomi Hideyoshi took power and prohibited the practice of Christianity, Ukon refused to follow the great feudal lords and abandon his faith. He lost his properties, position, social status, honor and respectability and was eventually forced into exile. With 300 other Japanese Christians he fled to Manila where, just 40 days after his arrival, he fell ill and died on Feb. 4, 1615. Pope Francis signed a decree on 21 January 2016 clearing Ukon’s way for Beatification as a martyr.
Speaking about the missionary zeal of Ukon, Card. Amato told Vatican Radio that he started seminaries in Azuchi, Takatsuki and Osaka.with the purpose of training Japanese missionaries and catechists. Among these seminarians, he said, were many martyrs, among them Jesuit St. Paul Miki. Because of Ukon’s work, the number of Christians grew dramatically in the region he was active, and in 1583 there were as many as 25,000 of them out of a population of 30,000. Ukon also found the Church in Osaka. Between 1585 and 1587, some thousand faithful were baptized in Akashi.
Argentine Jesuit, Father Renzo De Luca, the director of the 26 Martyrs Museum in Nagasaki said, "As a Christian, as a leader, as a cultural person, as a pioneer of adaptation, Ukon is a role model and there are many things we can learn from him.” “In this era of political distrust, I think he will be helpful for people other than Christians," Fr. De Luca said.