Beatification Day: The 188 Martyrs of Japan

Today, Cardinal Peter Seiichi Shirayanagi, the retired archbishop of Tokyo, will preside at a Mass in which he will beatify 188 seventeenth century Japanese martyrs.  Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins will also attend as Pope Benedict XVI’s envoy. 

The Associated Press article, published Friday, is well done and worth reading in its entirety.  Clips:

TOKYO (AP) — Samurai warriors, housewives and children were crucified, thrown into hot springs and tortured, but refused to renounce their religion. Japan’s extraordinary but relatively unknown history of Christian persecution is finally receiving recognition in a beatification of 188 martyrs.

The upcoming ceremony on Monday bestows honors from the Roman Catholic Church that are one step short of sainthood for Japanese killed from 1603 to 1639. The ceremony is expected to draw 30,000 people to a baseball stadium in the southwestern city of Nagasaki.


The most intense persecution came under Tokugawa Ieyasu, who followed Hideyoshi, and the martyrs being beatified Monday were killed during that period.

Among them will be 16 people, including three children, whose fingers were chopped off and their foreheads branded with a symbol of the cross. They were thrown into the boiling waters of a volcanic mountain.

Another martyr, the Rev. Julian Nakaura, was one of the first Japanese to travel to Rome and receive blessings from the pope. He endured torture called “the pit.” Bound tightly with ropes, his body was hung upside down into a hole filled with excrement, until he died on the fourth day.

This comes soon after the election of Taro Aso, Japan’s first Catholic prime minister.

Be sure to check out my previous post on this beatification, for an interesting look at who’s included among this group.


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