Protect All Life: Pope Francis in Japan

TOKYO – On the 20th of November, for most Catholics here in Japan, all roads lead to Tokyo Dome to celebrate the Holy Mass with Pope Francis. The Holy Father had his first Apostolic visit in the land of the Rising Sun. Carrying the theme, `Protect All Life,` Pope Francis wanted to send a loving message of compassion and mercy towards our neighbor – especially here in Japan where industrialization and technology is always on a fast track. Pope Francis` visit comes 38 years after the first visit of a Pope here – Pope John Paul II.

I together with some Sisters, Sr. Francis Keiko, Sr. Eugenie Nobuko, Sr. Clare Joseph, Sr. Agnes Kyoko and Sr. Ana Regina were headed to Tokyo via Shinkansen to hear the Holy Father. The 50,000-seater Tokyo Dome, which is at the heart of downtown Tokyo was the venue for the special celebration. Going there we met several kababayans and friends who were also going to attend the celebration.

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I together with some Sisters, Sr. Francis Keiko, Sr. Eugenie Nobuko, Sr. Clare Joseph, Sr. Agnes Kyoko and Sr. Ana Regina were headed to Tokyo via Shinkansen to hear the Holy Father. The 50,000-seater Tokyo Dome, which is at the heart of downtown Tokyo was the venue for the special celebration. Going there we met several kababayans and friends who were also going to attend the celebration.

bBy 12NN, we were already lined up at Gate 11, most of those with us were Sisters from other Congregations. I was struck how the Japanese people were so organized and disciplined with such a big event. In a matter of minutes, we were already inside the Dome sitting comfortably in our area.

 

 

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THE 50,000 SEATER TOKYO DOME WAS FILLED WITH PEOPLE OF DIFFERENT FAITHS AND BELIEFS.

The Eucharistic celebration was to begin at 4PM. To our amazement, we were seated very near the altar and near the pathway where Pope Francis will have his procession. By 3PM, as I looked up and around the enormous venue, I was teary eyed looking the enormous Dome was overflowing with people. Everyone knows Catholics are a minority here in Japan, but this event for me proves how our faith is teeming with so much life and love here. It didn`t matter anymore whether one went out of curiosity or deep love for our Church – one thing sure is that – our faith is capable of transcending boundaries, of welcoming everyone, of making each of us witnesses of Love.

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POPE FRANCIS ON THE POPEMOBILE BEFORE HE BEGAN THE EUCHARISTIC CELEBRATION.

Thirty minutes before the Mass and to everyone`s delight, Pope Francis emerged from the back of the arena on the Popemobile to go around the Dome. I first saw Pope Francis during the gathering of the youth at the University of Sto. Tomas in Manila during his Apostolic Visit there.

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MY CHEER MUST HAVE BEEN LOUD ENOUGH FOR THE HOLY FATHER TO HEAR AND LOOK AT ME.

As he drew near me (I was beside the railings the organizers put so as to control the crowd) the very same feeling of something you cannot explain enveloped me. The joy and the butterflies inside my stomach cannot be contained and I began to shed tears. I was in awe when He stopped right in front of me to kiss a child. I was cheering `Viva il Papa!` Perhaps it was loud enough for him to hear it that He looked at me and smiled and blessed us. It was so surreal. I felt again at that minute how God meets us where we are. His eyes were so full of love – I felt that is how God looks at each of us – with so much endearment and love and passion! God has always been with me here in my journey Japan – that alone is enough for me to sing of praise and gratitude for His overwhelming generosity.

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WE WERE SEATED CLOSE ENOUGH TO THE ALTAR ALONG WITH OTHER RELIGIOUS CONGREGATIONS AND FAITH DENOMINATION

Along the way, I met several new-found friends, for which I too am grateful – a group of young Betania Sisters, three Buddhist monks who also came to see the Pope – one of the Kaori, a Japanese teenager. I learned she`s a Buddhist, and so I asked her what made her decide to come and see the Holy Father. Her response was this: Pope Francis sends a message which is very much the same with our faith, peace and compassion and he is someone who fulfills his mission and invites everyone to partake in this mission of love. He captured my heart because he is for real, genuine and very inclusive. I feel I am included.`

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KAERU (on the left) SHE IS A BUDDHIST BUT STILL WENT ON TO SEE THE HOLY FATHER. THE GROUP OF BETANIA SISTERS (on the right) I WAS SEATED WITH WHO WERE AS MUCH DELIGHTED AS I AM SEEING POPE FRANCIS.

In his message, the Holy Father invited everyone to be missionaries of love and compassion in the world where consumerism and individualistic attitude has gained grounds. The Pope said, Jesus continues to invite us to `re-evaluate our daily decisions and not to become trapped or isolated in the pursuit of success at any cost, including the cost of our own lives.`

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THE WHOLE ARENA WAS FILLED BY THE TIME THE EUCHARISTIC CELEBRATION BEGAN.

Pope Francis also zeroed in on the essence of `community,` – `a community that can learn and teach the importance of accepting `things that are not perfect, pure or distilled, yet no less worthy of love.` What also struck me was his idea of a community becoming a `field hospital` – wherein people are always ready to `heal the wounds` of neighbors, always ready to offer a hopeful `path of reconciliation and forgiveness` and always see our fellow brothers and sisters through the `compassion and love of the Father` for all His beloved children.

I also asked my companions in this journey about their insights on this special pilgrimage we had in Tokyo.

jBefore Pope Francis came to Japan, the media had many articles about him even if there are few Catholics here. But this prepared me for his visit. His message of peace and compassion was not only addressed to the Japanese people but to all peoples. He is a person of peace and lived compassion. He definitely strengthened my faith. I am very grateful for his meaningful presence. He truly is God-sent.  Sr. Francis Keiko

When Pope Francis visited on Brazil for the World Youth Day in 2013, I was in Japan, so I could not see him. When the Olympic Games was held in Brazil in 2016 I was in Japan so I could not enjoy enough as well. Then I returned to Brazil for a while and back here in Japan again this year, now I could attend the Papal mass in Tokyo! And the Olympic Games will be held in Japan next year! I cannot be grateful enough at how God prepares everything in His time. Pope Francis is really a man of hope and joy. He gave us strength. His joy spreads around person to person and to all people.  Sr. Ana Regina

kI have been praying to be able to participate in the Mass with Pope Francis in Tokyo in spite of my age. I was impressed with the joy and delight of the jubilant 50,000 people in the big Tokyo Dome – one of Japan`s biggest baseball stadium. They were free to express their faith. I felt that we are one family. We are brothers and sisters. Also I felt the holiness and love of Pope Francis to God’s people. I am very Thankful to God for giving me the chance to see Pope Francis. Sr. Agnes  Kyoko

When Pope John Paul II came to Japan in 1983, I was not even baptized yet, I was only learning catechism. I too was in Nagasaki to join the Papal mass in heavy snow. Now, after 38 years, our Pope Francis arrived to Japan with great lmessage of peace and love. After visiting warm Thailand, Japan welcomed him rain and strong cold wind. He must have been exhausted during his stay but I was very much touched by his strong apostolic spirit during the Papal Mass in Tokyo. He tried to use all of his physical strength to make the Japanese people to “respect all life.” I wish this Papal visit would bear fruits one day in Japan. Sr.Eugenie Nobuko

It was the love that the people have for the Pope and the expression of faith. He represents the Church and somehow we have touched God. I cried and I don’t why, it was an overwhelming experience to see this person who brings so much love. Through him I have seen and touched mercy and compassion. The people there were expressing their faith. It was really amazing how one person can unite, can bring people together. There must be something in him that brings people together. His very being there really spoke of God in our midst. The visit brought consciousness about Pope Francis and faith;  it will stay in my heart for a long time. Sr. Clare Joseph

Before His Papal Mass in Tokyo, Pope Francis visited first two important sites of Christianity here in Japan, Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

The Holy Father went first to Nagasaki on the morning of 24th. He have a strong message about nuclear weapons at the Atomic Bomb Hypocenter Park. He then proceeded to pay respect to the holy martyrs of Japan at the Martyr`s Memorial in Nishizaka Hill. In the afternoon His Holiness led a solemn Mass at the Nagasaki baseball stadium. The same venue was also overflowing with people.

In the morning of the 25th, Pope Francis proceeded to Hiroshima and met some of the victims of the Hiroshima bombings. He also gave a message for peace at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial.

Before proceeding to the Tokyo Dome on November 26th, Pope Francis met the victims of the 2011 disasters, the earthquake, the tsunami and the Fukushima nuclear power plant meltdown at Bellesalle Hanzomon. He then went on with a private meeting with Emperor Naruhito at the Imperial Palace.

Early in the afternoon, He met thousands of young people at St. Mary`s Cathedral where he urged them to be ministers of peace and love, and of mercy and compassion. After the Papal Mass at Tokyo Dome, Pope Francis met with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at Kantei.

Before departing on November 26 for Rome, the Holy Father had solemn Mass with the members of the Society of Jesus at the Kulturheim Chapel of the renowned Sophia University. He also made sure to have a special visit to the elderly Jesuit priests. One of the most touching moments was his visit to Fr. Adolfo Nicolas.

Pope Francis then gave a message to the students of the university. A simple farewell ceremony was then held at Haneda Airport before he departed for Rome.

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A GROUP OF FILIPINOS WHO WENT ALL THE WAY FROM DIFFERENT PARTS OF JAPAN INCLUDING FR. NONOY, WHO CELEBRATED ON OF OUR MASSES IN MINOO DURING THE RETREAT OF THE SISTERS LAST NOVEMBER. ALSO, MS. ERLYN, ONE OF OUR MANY AMA VOLUNTEERS.

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KAORI AND THE TWO OTHER BUDDHIST MONKS. KAORI WAS CARRYING THE `FLAME OF HOPE` WHICH WAS USED AS THE MAIN SYMBOL OF PEACE, ESPECIALLY A NUCLEAR WEAPON-FREE WORLD. THIS FLAME WAS REMAINED LIT THROUGHOUT POPE FRANCS` VISIT HERE.

 

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POPE FRANCIS AS HE WENT AROUND THE TOKYO DOME TO BLESS EVERYONE.

 

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THE EXTERIOR OF THE TOKYO DOME WHERE ALL THE MERCHANDISE FOR THE PAPAL VISIT WERE SOLD.