Filipinos for the beatification of a Japanese Samuari

Today, Blessed Justo Ukon Takayama (1552-1615) was beatified in Osaka, Japan. There are a few remarkable things about his beatification. First, Ukon is the first Japanese to be declared a Blessed as an individual, not among group of martyrs. Second, Ukon was a 16th century samurai. (That’s right, a samurai! How cool is that?!) Last but not least, his petition for canonization did not come from within Japan, but from the Archdiocese of Manila in the Philippines where Ukon died as a Christian exiled from Japan.

lord-justo-ukon-takayama1A website dedicated to Ukon’s cause for canonization reports that the beatification Mass was a beautiful cross-cultural celebration with pilgrims from Japan, Korea, Philippines and other parts of Asia. A 1000 member choir sang a Filipino hymn. Pictures of the celebration can be found here:

In a time of rising isolationism in many parts of the world, this celebration seems to stand boldly as a reminder of the boundedness that Christians of all nations share in our baptism and faith. It did not matter to the Filipinos who took him in that Ukon was Japanese, nor that he lived in Manila for only forty days until he died. That he was a witness for all Christians was enough for people to desire that he be raised to sainthood just fifteen years after his death, making a Japanese Christian the first Catholic to be presented to the Vatican for canonization by the Archdiocese of Manila.


  1. Audrey, thanks for mentioning Bl. Justo. The story of 16th century Catholic evangelization in Japan is a fascinating topic. If you haven’t already seen it, Akira Kurosawa’s film Kagemusha contains implicit and explicit references to this period of evangelization.

    Is Bl. Justo then a confessor? A confessor is a holy person who dies a peaceful death, rather than one by violence. I sometimes wonder if these distinctions are as important nowadays. This might be a positive development since the most important aspect of Bl. Justo and the life of every Christian is discipleship, and not necessarily the circumstances of our death.

  2. Jordan, if you click on the link for the photographs etc, you will note that all the celebrants are wearing red. His willingness to accept exile rather than renounce his faith was considered equivalent to martydom. Possibly a rare exception, but some commentators see it a part of a move to expand the meaning of martyrdom. See also the expanded definition of martyrdom that resulted in the beatification of Blessed Oscar Romero.
    Some might be interested to know that the deacon holding the Cardinals crozier, Rev Peter Hoan Duc Loi, a transitional deacon for the Hiroshima Diocese, came to Japan as a seminarian. He will be ordained a priest next month.Some years back the Bishops of Japan appealed to seminarians in Vietnam, asking would any like to volunteer to work in Japan. He was one of those who responded, and after language study at the university ran by my community completed his formation at the national seminary. There are also a handful of Korean priests and some seminarians who came after a similar appeal.
    There are sizeable Korean and Vietnamese Catholic communities in Japan and both are proving to be a source of vocations to the priesthood and the religious life.

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