(Vatican Radio) This year, the Holy See and Japan are marking 75 years of their diplomatic relations, with a few programmes this week. It was in 1942 that full diplomatic relations were formalized between the two states, making Japan the first Asian country to do so. However, informal relations existed as early as 1919 when Japan agreed to a Holy See request to send an Apostolic Delegate to the country. Japan’s relations with the Catholic Church goes back even earlier to the first Christian missionaries with the arrival of St. Francis Xavier and the Jesuits in the 1540s who converted several hundred Japanese.
Today, Holy See has an Apostolic Nunciature in Tokyo, while Japan has an embassy to the Holy See in Rome. Yoshio Nakamura is the current Japanese ambassador to the Holy See. Speaking to Vatican Radio on the phone, Nakamura first explained the significance of the 75 years of the Holy See-Japan diplomatic relations:
War and peace
Mr. Nakamura explained that full diplomatic relations were established 1942 with the outbreak of World War II, and Japan requested the Holy See to mediate to end the war and make peace. Hence the theme of this 75th anniversary is peace.
The Japanese ambassador said there are a few programmes planned for the anniversary, among them a Mass on Wednesday, Oct. 11, at the Church of the Gesù in Rome, presided over by the Vatican’s Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin. The Mass, that will be attended by some 100 pilgrims from Japan, will be on the theme of peace.
The following day, Oct. 12, a symposium will be held at the Jesuit-run Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome on the 75 years of diplomatic relations between the Holy See and Japan. Nakamura said it will also highlight Japan’s relations with the Catholic Church that go back to the 16th century.
Meanwhile, an essay competition is being held in Japan among high school students on Pope Francis’ New Year’s Peace Day message. Four winners will visit Rome and possibly will be able to meet the Pope, Nakamura said.