By Robin Gomes
Japanese Archbishop Thomas Aquinas Manyo of Osaka was more surprised than anyone at the news he has been chosen to become a cardinal.
Pope Francis on Sunday announced the names of 14 new cardinals from around the world , including in the Vatican, three of whom are from Asia – Archbishop Manyo of Japan, Archbishop Joseph Coutts of Karachi, Pakistan and Chaldean Catholic Patriarch Louis Raphaël I Sako of Babylon, Iraq.
Archbishop Manyo: “hard to believe”
Archbishop Manyo told UCANEWS that people have been continually emailing and calling him about his appointment, not long after the Pope’s announcement in Rome on May 20.
"I myself did not know about the announcement at all and I had no contact in advance. Personally, I don't think I'm the most suitable person to be a cardinal, so I still find it hard to believe," the 69-year old archbishop said.
Archbishop Manyo is vice-president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Japan (CBCJ). He was born in Nagasaki prefecture in 1949 and was ordained a priest for Nagasaki Archdiocese in 1975. After serving as secretary-general of the CBCJ from 2006 to 2011, he was ordained bishop for Hiroshima Diocese in September 2011. In August 2014, he was transferred to Osaka as archbishop.
As a native of Nagasaki, Bishop Manyo was widely involved in the peace movement in Hiroshima. He also worked for the beatification of "hidden Christians" who had been exiled to Tsuwano in present-day Shimane prefecture, part of Hiroshima Diocese. In the final outbreak of anti-Christian persecution in Japan 150 years ago, some 3,400 Christians from Nagasaki were exiled to various places throughout the country, and more than 600 died.
For many years, he has been involved with people with disabilities, while as a member of the CBCJ he has been on its committees for education and ecumenism.
The cardinal-designate is also a master of the short Japanese poetic form called haiku and his poems often appear in his sermons and articles. Archbishop Manyo is the sixth Japanese to be named a cardinal.
The appointment of a Japanese cardinal comes as a surprise, considering that over 80% of its more than 126 million population profess Shintoism or Buddhism, with Christians forming some 2.3%.
There are about 950,000 Catholics in Japan - about 450,000 of whom are Japanese nationals and the remainder expatriates, largely from the Philippines and repatriated Japanese from South America.
Cardinals, universality of Church
The Pope justified his choice saying “the countries of origin express the universality of the church, which continues to announce the merciful love of God to all people on earth."
The 14 new cardinals hail from Pakistan, Japan, Iraq, Portugal, Italy, Poland, Peru, Madagascar as well as from the Vatican. Eleven of them are under 80, making them eligible to vote for a new pope.
With the new cardinals, the number of College of Cardinals under 80 will be 125, higher than the limit of 120 set by Pope Paul VI. Pope Francis has already appointed 60 cardinals in his five years as pope and there are now 213 living cardinals.
The new cardinals will receive their "red hats" at a consistory in Rome on June 29, the feast of Saints Peter and Paul. (Source: UCAN)