HT Mark P. Shea
ROMA, November 26, 2008 – A samurai carrying the cross is not a conventional image. But there were some of these among the 188 Japanese martyrs of the seventeenth century who were proclaimed blessed two days ago in Nagasaki. There were noblemen, priests – four of them – and one religious. But most of them were ordinary Christians: farmers, women, young people under the age of twenty, even small children, entire families. All of them were killed for refusing to renounce the Christian faith.
The beatification of "Fr. Peter Kibe and his 187 companions" – as the title of the ceremony put it – was the first ever celebrated in Japan. The new blesseds joined 42 Japanese saints and 395 blesseds, all of them martyrs, elevated to the honors of the altar beginning with Pius IX.
The new blesseds were martyred between 1603 and 1639. At the time, there were about 300,000 Catholics in Japan, evangelized first by the Jesuits, with St. Francis Xavier, and then also by the Franciscans. Sandro Magister