Pope Francis lauds early Japanese Christians as fine examples of the faithful
Early Japanese Christians faced persecution and kept faith almost 250 years - without priests
In the second of a brief series of catecheses on the Christian sacraments, Pope Francis spoke about the importance of Baptism for the people of God. He referred to the early Japanese Christian community as an example. "That community suffered a severe persecution in the early seventeenth century. There were many martyrs, members of the clergy were expelled and thousands of people were killed."
"When, after about two and a half centuries - 250 years later - the missionaries returned to Japan, thousands of Christians came out of hiding and the church could flourish. It had survived by the grace of their Baptism: but this is great! God's people transmit the faith, baptizing children and moving on."
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Francis cited this as a fine example of ironclad loyalty and faith. "And they had maintained, even in secret, a strong community spirit, because baptism had made them become one body in Christ, they were isolated and hidden, but they were always members of the People of God, members of the Church. We can learn much from this story," Francis said.
Pope Francis shared this heroic tale at his Wednesday General Audience in St. Peter's Square. The pope highlighted the importance of Baptism, the sacrament which "makes us enter into this people of God . a people of God who walks and transmits the faith . the People of God that marches throughout history."
Francis called upon the Christians in Jordan and the Holy Land to learn from the Japanese Church. "Japan is a country that is very dear to Jesuits and Bergoglio had also hoped to go there as a young missionary: Learn from the Japanese Church that because of the persecutions of the seventeenth century retired in obscurity for about two and a half centuries, passing on from one generation to another the flame of faith, keeping it alive. Difficulties and persecutions, when experienced with expectation, trust and hope, purify and strengthen the faith," Francis said.
The pope had baptized 32 children in the Sistine Chapel last week during the traditional Baptism of the Lord mass. Francis stressed that the virtue of Baptism turns us into missionary disciples who are called to announce the Gospel in the world. With Baptism and the subsequent incorporation into the People of God that "marches throughout history.
"Everyone in the Church is a disciple and we are all missionaries in the place which the Lord has given us." Everyone "even the greatest is a disciple and the smallest is a missionary."
Some might say to me: "But bishops aren't disciples, the Pope isn't a disciple, they know everything . Well, bishops and the Pope must be disciples because if they are not, they cannot be witnesses and they cannot transmit the faith. Do you see?"
Pope Francis calls for your 'prayer and action'...
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Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for March 2014
Respect for Women: That all cultures may respect the rights and dignity of women.
Vocations: That many young people may accept the Lordís invitation to consecrate their lives to proclaiming the Gospel.
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