Tokyo: Christian samurai Venerable Justo Ukon Takayama (1552-1615), a high-ranking daimyo (feudal lord) is beatified in the Japanese city of Osaka on February 7. Cardinal Angelo Amato, Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, celebrated the Mass in Latin and about 12,000 faithful attended it.
Born into a family of landowners, Ukon converted to Christianity at the age of 12 after coming into contact with Jesuit missionaries. As a feudal lord, he used his power to support and protect the short-lived missionary expansion within Japan, thus converting thousands. Cardinal Amato told Vatican Radio, “In the regions Ukon was active, the number of Christians grew dramatically owing to his training of Japanese missionaries and catechists. Among these seminarians, many died as martyrs, including Jesuit St. Paul Miki.” In 1583 there were about 25,000 Christians out of a population of 30,000. Between 1585 and 158, thousands were baptized in Akashi. Shogun Toyotomi Hideyoshi took power in 1587 and prohibited the practice of Christianity but Takayama refused to abandon his faith. On account of disobedience showcased by a samurai to his chief he lost everything and chose a life of poverty. By 1614, persecution arose and Christianity was completely banned in Japan forcing him to flee with 300 other Japanese Christians to Manila, Philippines. But his days were short-lived as 40 days after his arrival, he fell ill and died on Feb. 4, 1615.
In 2014, General postulator, Fr. Anton Witwer, as reported by the Catholic News Agency, “Since Takayama died in exile because of the weaknesses caused by the maltreatments he suffered in his homeland, the process for beatification is that of a martyr.”Pope Francis signed a decree for his beatification in January last year following an application for the beatification by the Japanese bishops’ conference in 2013. Astold to the Vatican Radio, Father De Luca, Argentinian Jesuit and the director of the 26 Martyrs Museum in Nagasaki, praised Ukon as “a Christian, a leader, a cultural person, as a pioneer of adaptation, he is a role model and there are many things we can learn from him. In this era of political distrust, I think he will be helpful for people other than Christians.”
Source: CNA, UCAN, Vatican Radio