SACBC MAY ROSARY MARATHON 21 May – Rosary for the end to the pandemic from the Shrine of OUR LADY OF NAGASAGI, Japan

21 May – Rosary for the end to the pandemic from the Shrine of OUR LADY OF NAGASAGI, Japan

Prayer Intention – For all social workers.
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Shintoism and Buddhism are the majority religions of Japan. Catholicism arrived with Francis Xavier in 1549. This was the beginning of what is now known as Japan’s ‘Age of Christianity’. Persecution of Christians started in 1587 and the religion was formally banned in the early 17th Century. The Catholic community in Nagasaki survived underground for 250 years. When France and Japan signed a trade agreement in 1859, the foreign community in Nagasaki was allowed to build a church: Oura Cathedral.

The local Catholics made themselves known to the French priests. In 1865 the Nagasaki Catholics built four secret chapels. In 1868 persecution of Christians was resumed and more than 3,000 Catholics from the Nagasaki area were sent into exile. Freedom of religion was introduced in Japan with the constitution of 1889. In 1891, the Japanese Catholic Church was granted its own religious hierarchy. In the year 1914, the Urakami Cathedral (also know as the Immaculate Conception Cathedral or the St. Mary’s Cathedral) in Nagasaki City was built by Missions Etrangeres de Paris and officially consecrated. It was the largest Catholic church in Asia. It was built by volunteers in the Nagasaki Parish, led by a French missionary priest, Father Pierre Fraineau.

Three years later, a wooden altar piece was installed in the church. Highlight of the altar piece was a wooden Madonna, inspired by Murillo’s painting of the Immaculate Conception. On August 9, 1945 at 11:02 am – Urakami, in the Nagasaki City, was the target of the second atomic bomb that was dropped on Japan to end World War II. Eventually, more than 100,000 people died. The atomic bomb exploded 500 meters above Urakami Valley, instantly turning the entire region into an inferno. In the church, parishioners were going to confession in preparation for the Feast of the Assumption. At the moment of impact there were 24 believers and two clergymen inside. They were killed instantly. The church ruin burned well until nightfall. Of the 12,000 parishioners in Urakami, 8,500 did not survive the day. A stone crucifix and two statues over the main entrance of the church. Today they grace the rebuilt Urakami Church.
On October 1945, Kaemon Noguchi, a discharged Japanese soldier and Catholic priest, entered the ruins of Urakami Cathedral to pray. He hoped to find a tangible memento of the church of his youth, to take it to his Hokkaido Trappist Monastery.

After more than an hour of searching the debris, Noguchi sits back and prays again. Then, suddenly, he notices the eyeless features of the Madonna, staring at him blindly from the dust. Overwhelmed, Noguchi takes the scorched wooden image with him to his monastery, where he keeps it for 30 years. In August 1975, Kaemon Noguchi travelled to Nagasaki to return the image of the Madonna. He gave it to Professor Yakichi Kataoka, who kept the image at Junshin Women’s College for 15 years. In the year 1990, Takeshi Kawazoe, chief priest of Urakami Church wrote an article, mentioning it was fortunate that a Japanese soldier discovered the head of the statue of Virgin Mary. He hoped to discover the name of the soldier. Father Noguchi wrote a letter to the church explaining what happened. Professor Kataoka returned the image to the church. It was placed in the atom bomb museum.

In August 1998, Mr. Yasuhiko Sata read the story of the Madonna and visited Nagasaki to see the statue. He unexpectedly found the Madonna displayed amongst other relics in the atom bomb museum. He convinced the church that the Madonna was not a mere memento of the nuclear holocaust but a holy object that should be returned to the altar. Easter Sunday, the 23rd of April 2000, Mr. Sata’s efforts finally bore fruit. Father Mimura of Urakami Church assured him that the Madonna would be placed in the Cathedral during May, the month dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary. On Tuesday 9 August 2005 at 10:30 a.m., the Urakami Cathedral in Nagasaki City held a ceremony of enshrining, in a newly completed chapel inside the Cathedral, the head of a wooden statue of the Madonna destroyed in the atomic bombing of Nagasaki.
Mr. Sata continues with the campaign to have the Our Lady inscribed in the World Heritage List.



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