Reflecting the Mind of the
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Fr. Girolamo de Angelis, Missionary and Martyr in Japan in 1623
Massive persecutions of Christians took place in Nagasaki in 1622 and in Edo (now Tokyo) in 1623. The fourth centenary of the persecution that destroyed Japan’s great and flourishing mission, begun in 1549 by St. Francis Xavier, has passed largely unnoticed, yet in its scale it was an event perhaps unique in the history of the Church. All missionaries were expelled in 1614, but some of them managed to remain in hiding.

There were 4,045 attested cases of martyrdom during the persecution. There was no shortage of those who denied their faith, but overall there emerged a Christian witness of extraordinary depth. While the majority of them were Japanese Christians – men, women and even children – a number of priests and religious must also be counted: Dominicans, Franciscans, Augustinians and Jesuits. In 1639 Japan’s borders were closed to Westerners, and for more than two centuries no foreigners were allowed to enter.

The Society of Jesus participated in the mission to Japan and counted many of its members as martyrs, most notably among the large group of 205 Christians beatified for their witness during the massacres at Nagasaki in 1622 and at Tokyo the following year. Of these, the majority were lay people, but there were a few Jesuits, including five Italians: Carlo Spinola, Camillo Costanzo, Pietro Paolo Navarro, Giovanni Battista Zola and Girolamo de Angelis.
© Union of Catholic Asian News 2024
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