Former Tokyo Archbishop Criticizes Roman Curia

The former archbishop of Tokyo, Takeo Okada, has issued an open letter giving his critical thoughts about the Roman Curia, UCA News reports.

Archbishop Okada says that the Roman Curia has not served, and even has hindered the Japanese church in the areas of inculturation, decentralization and spiritualization.

Pray Tell readers will be interested in the archbishop’s comments on inculturation of the liturgy. He complains that: “the new version of the General Instruction of the Roman Mass will result in the cancellation of some cases of adaptation which were previously permitted to the Bishops’ Conference of Japan.” The bishops “sent our new alternative plan to the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments some years ago,” but, “until now we have had no response from the congregation.”


  1. The “battle” for the approval of Japanese texts with the Vatican is longstanding. There is only one Japanese priest/scholar in Rome and he is a Canon Lawyer, and he is unfamiliar with the “local” situation here in Japan. At the last ad limina there was a very heated discussion between the Japanese Bishops, who visited the CDWDS in full force, and Cardinal Sarah – Abp Roche. In the interests of privacy I’ll resist naming the Bishops who are my sources in this instance.
    At the time Abp Okada was still active as head of the Tokyo Archdiocese. He is fluent in English and Italian, holding a doctorate in missiology with a specialization in Evangelization and Inculturation. Compared to remarks I’ve heard from other Japanese Bishops, I found his remarks in the letter quite measured and mild. Clashes between the Japanese Bishops and the Vatican Curia have a long history, the most famous in recent history was their wholesale rejection of the Lineamenta for the 1998 Synod for Asia.

    1. I am told that the original Japanese translation of the 1970 Missal was rejected because the only person who knew any Japanese that the CDW could find in Rome at the time was a first-year seminarian who knew nothing about liturgy or liturgical texts. On his say-so, CDW turned it down. The Japanese bishops were not pleased!

  2. Some urban myths have a long life. From my own records of Japanese SVD priests studying in Rome in the 1970’s, there was always at least one pursuing graduate studies in the time period in question. Indeed at one point the number of Japanese priests, both SVD and from other communities or diocese, who regularly gathered at the SVD Generalate, was such that they were referred to jokingly, as the “Japanese Mafia”. Abp Okada was probably among their number since he pursued graduate studies in Rome in the late 70s.
    The “interim” translation of the Roman Missal 1970, came out in Japanese in 1979. More recently the number of Japanese priests studying or living in Rome has dropped off, now possibly only two or three in residence. However, for example there are at least five members of the SVD Japan Province in Rome at the present time, one a native speaker, the others all fluent in the language. I’m also aware of a small handful from other communities or diocese. Sadly the Japanese priest whom the CDWDS regularly consults on Japanese translations has no background in liturgy, and has been living and working in Rome for most of his priestly life.

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