By Francesca Merlo
Pope Francis began his address to authorities, civil society and the diplomatic corps by recalling “the friendly relations existing between the Holy See and Japan are long-standing”. He described these relations as being “rooted in the appreciation and admiration felt by the first missionaries for these lands”.
A sensitive nation
The Pope referred to one missionary in particular, the Jesuit Alessandro Valignano, “who in 1579 wrote: ‘Whoever wishes to see what our Lord has bestowed upon man need only come to Japan to see it’”.
“As a nation”, the Pope continued, “Japan is particularly sensitive to the suffering of those less fortunate”. On this note, he recalled the theme of his visit: Protect all life, “in the recognition of its inviolable dignity and the importance of showing solidarity and support to our brothers and sisters in any kind of need”.
“We know that, in the end, the civility of every nation or people is measured by the attention it devotes to those in need and its capacity to be fruitful and promote life”.
Never again such tragedies
The Pope then explained that he is not only in Japan to confirm Japanese Christians in their faith, but also “to implore God and invite all persons of good will to encourage and promote every necessary means of dissuasion so that the destruction generated by atomic bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki will never take place again in human history”.
He added that history has proven that dialogue is enough to solve conflicts, describing it as “the only weapon worthy of man and capable of ensuring lasting peace”.
Referring to the upcoming Olympic and Paralympic games, being held this coming year in Japan, the Pope used the example of the “Olympic spirit” as one that “can contribute the harmony, justice, solidarity and reconciliation that are the mortar of the edifice of peace”.
Centuries of heritage
Speaking of Japan’s “precious cultural heritage”, Pope Francis pointed out that “throughout many centuries of its history”, Japan has been able to develop and preserve “the profound religious and moral values that characterize this ancient culture”.
Good relations between the different religions are not only essential for a future of peace, he said, but for training present and future generations to cherish the ethical principles that serve as the foundation for a truly just and humane society.
Finally, Pope Francis expressed his gratitude for having been invited to visit Japan and encouraged all those present in their “efforts to shape a social order ever more protective of life, ever more respectful of the dignity and rights of each member of our human family”.
Watch the live broadcast with English commentary: