DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/20 January) – Pope Francis has designated Orlando Cardinal Quevedo, Archbishop of Cotabato, as his Special Envoy to the celebration of the 150th Rediscovery of the “Hidden Christians” in Nagasaki, Japan on March 16 and 17 this year.
Quevedo told MindaNews the Papal Nuncio “officially confirmed it to me after the Luneta mass” (on January 18) although he was informed about the assignment three months ago.
The Vatican Information Service on January 17 listed as among “Other Pontifical Acts” that day the appointment of Quevedo “as the special envoy of Pope Francis to the special event.”
Christianity in Japan began when three Catholic missionaries – St. Francis Xavier, one of the founders of the Society of Jesus to which the Pope, Jorge Mario Bergoglio, Cardinal of Argentina, belongs — and two other missionaries Cosme de Torres and John Fernandes — arrived in Kagoshima, Japan in 1549, intent on spreading the word of God.
Their efforts paid off, the number of Christians rose to about 300,000 including members of the aristocracy, but by the beginning of the next century, Christianity was banned there in 1612, they were forced into practicing their beliefs in hiding.
The “hidden Christians” are locally known as Kakure Kirishitan.
In mid-January last year, Vatican Radio quoted Pope Francis as saying of the Japanese Christians: “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. Not a single priest was left in Japan: they were all expelled. The community then went underground, keeping the faith and prayer in hiding.”
The Pope added that when a child was born, “the father or the mother baptized him, because we can all baptize. 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.” (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)