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Japanese Catholics prepare for arrival of Pope Francis Japanese Catholics prepare for arrival of Pope Francis  (AFP or licensors)

Japan government recognizes Pope as 'Emperor of Teaching'

Just a few days before Pope Francis’ arrival in Japan, the nation’s government recognizes the Japanese-language characters that the Catholic Church has used for the Pope for over 40 years.

By Devin Watkins – Tokyo, Japan

“Pope Francis has something to teach.”

That’s how Thomas Power, an associate professor at Tokyo’s Meiji University, interprets a recent decision taken by the Japanese government.

Early this week, the government announced that it would recognize the Pope with the Japanese characters 教皇, transliterated as Kyō-kō, rather than 法王, pronounced Hōō.

What’s the difference?

Mr. Power told Vatican Radio that Kyō-ō means something like “Emperor of Teaching or Doctrine”.

The Catholic Church in Japan has used those characters for over 40 years to identify the Bishop of Rome.

The previous Hōō is similar to the term used for the highest ranking official in Buddhism, and means “Emperor of Law”.

“A Japanese Catholic friend of mine,” recounts Mr. Power, “said when it was announced [on TV] he had tears in his eyes.”

The professor from Meiji University’s School of Political Science and Economics thinks his friend got emotional because “it was a recognition of the Catholic Church.”

Catholics make up only 0.42% of Japan’s population.

Teaching through love

Mr. Power said many people were touched by Pope Francis’ recent video message to the country, adding that they seem open to hearing his teaching.

“He was speaking not just to Catholics but to the Japanese people. And the way he was – I guess you could say – ‘teaching’ was a very loving attention to the Japanese people,” said Mr. Power. “It was very personal. They were touched at the heart.”

Listen to the full interview
23 November 2019, 08:19