Vatican Corner 12-15-2019

Telling about when he was a young Jesuit, Pope Francis In the book “El Jesuita”, published in 2010, said that “over time, I felt the desire to go as a missionary to Japan, where the Jesuits have always carried out a very important work.” In 1549 Jesuit missionary St. Francis Xavier visited Japan and in the following five centuries the Jesuits have dedicated special attention to the Japanese people and culture. In 2013 and 2015 Francis spoke with admiration of the witness offered by the Japanese Church, which has remained alive despite the persecutions suffered between the 16th and 17th centuries. He said he was struck by the strength of the lay faithful, the “hidden Christians,” who helped the Church to weather the storm. When the missionaries and priest were expelled from the country and then later returned, they found “all the communities in place, all baptized, all catechized, all married in church.” Francis said “the faith of the Christian community did not cool down. On the contrary, the sparks of faith that the Holy Spirit kindled through the preaching of those evangelizers” remained “safe thanks to the solicitude (protectiveness) of the lay faithful.” From Nov. 19-26, Pope Francis traveled to Thailand and Japan, fulfilling his decades-old missionary dream, and making one of his longest pastoral visits. His journey began in Thailand where he paid tribute to the rich spiritual and cultural tradition of the Thai people. He met with civil authorities, brother bishops and the Thai King. He visited a hospital, spoke at the celebration of two Masses and saw how the Gospel in being enculturated among the Thai people. In Japan he visited Nagasaki and Hiroshima and met survivors and their families of the nuclear bombs and recalled his appeal for the abolition of nuclear weapons. He praised Japan for remaining faithful to its religious and moral values, and open to the Gospel message, and said that it can be a leader for a more just and peaceful world. Pope Francis seems to be attempting to accelerate his mission to reform and renew the Church. Less than a month earlier was the Amazon Synod, when an attempt was made to establish a way of liturgical worship that incorporates key cultural elements of the people of the region. When Pope Francis returned to Rome he opened the season of Advent with a Congolese community living in Rome by celebrating the Zairian (or Congolese ) Rite in St. Peter’s Basilica. It is a modified form of Mass approved by the Holy See in 1988 featuring traditional African modes of worship and praise. There was no public announcement of this Mass, possibly to avoid possible protests by traditionalists. On Dec. 15, Pope Francis will be celebrating another enculturated Mass, he will begin a novena in preparation for Christmas that has been a beloved feature of Filipino Catholicism since the 17th century, known as Simbáng Gabi. Francis is showing a wide variety of ways and styles of worship that do not, in any way, threaten the unity of the Church. On December 13, 2019, Pope Francis will celebrate 50 years as an ordained priest and four days later he will celebrate his 83rd birthday. The new president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops would like the faithful to mark the Holy Father’s jubilee with special prayers for him in his priestly ministry.