By Devin Watkins – Tokyo, Japan
The Pope’s itinerary for Monday was packed.
Not only was it hectic, it was even filled with the most varied events scattered throughout the city of Tokyo. Yet through it all peace was written all over the Pope’s smiling face.
Pope Francis started Monday picking up the same theme he left off with on Sunday: atomic energy.
He met with the victims of what has become known as the “triple disaster” – the 9.0-magnitude earthquake that triggered a raging tsunami that struck the coast of Fukushima. A series of meltdowns at a nuclear power plant led to the evacuation of over 150 thousand people.
The Pope reminded them that they are not alone in their pain.
Then he was whisked off for a quick meeting with Emperor Naruhito.
What stood out was how the Emperor welcomed Pope Francis as he stepped out of the car. Emperor Naruhito even accompanied him back to it at the end of their 30-minute meeting.
Some observers called it a stretch of protocol that showed in what high regard Japan’s Emperor holds the Pope.
But it was with the young people of Japan that Pope Francis really came alive.
He spoke passionately about the challenges facing today’s youth. Bullying, he noted, makes life nearly unbearable at the already-difficult period of adolescence.
So he sought to calm those young people’s fears with his off-the-cuff humor.
What was perhaps Pope Francis’ most touching message was delivered at Mass.
In a frenetic society where work holds higher value than religion, Christians must step back and refocus our attention on Jesus Christ.
As one Jesuit missionary put it, the people of Japan are already well-disposed to seeking peace of heart. The Pope did his part to give their search a Christian direction.
The icing on the cake was a visit with Japan’s civil authorities.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe touched hearts as he recounted how a priest discovered the existence of “hidden Christians” who had passed on the Catholic faith in silence through 7 generations.
It was definitely a whirlwind day. But Pope Francis nonetheless carried his characteristically Christian sense of peace to every place he passed.