|5th International Day of Prayer, Amsterdam 2003|
“Japan will be converted!”
My name is Hirosi Tatsuchi and the person standing next to me is my wife Schiko.
My country, Japan, has 130 million inhabitants. Of these there are 450,000 Catholics, which means that only 1 in 300 Japanese is Catholic. I, too, grew up in this pagan environment. Like most Japanese I did know a few things about Christianity, but more in the sense of general education.
When I was a student I traveled through Europe for a month. All by myself I visited various countries. One day I walked into a Marian Church in Munich. I kneeled down before the statue of the Mother of God and prayed for the first time in my life. I do not know why. Obviously, I had no relationship with the Mother of God. But in this moment I simply wanted to talk to her and to be with her. I stayed for a long time in this church, alone with her in the silence.
As far as faith is concerned, the history of the Japanese Christians is tragic. Under the reign of heathen rulers heavy persecutions broke out that lasted for three hundred years and nearly caused the extermination of Christianity. Historians report, “In every Japanese town martyr blood has flown.” Did you know that in 1945 70% of all Japanese Catholics were living in Nagasaki? It was called the “Catholic city of Japan”. Now you may perhaps ask yourselves, “Why of all places did the nuclear bomb have to fall in Nagasaki?” I have also asked myself this question. But, the better I understood the redeeming worth of the sufferings of the innocent, the better I have understood why God gave his permission for this to happen in the Japanese history.
In connection with the Rosary I would like to tell you something beautiful. For not only in Nagasaki, but also in Hiroshima, a nuclear bomb fell. Hiroshima had to be swept away so to hit the Japanese war machine destructively hard.
Humanly speaking, it is unexplainable why those four Jesuits were the only survivors within a one mile radius of the explosion. It remains a mystery to the experts that none of the priests were injured by the radiation, and that the parish house, which was only eight blocks from the center of the explosion, remained standing even though all surrounding buildings were completely destroyed. Also, according to the statements of the two hundred American and Japanese doctors and scientists who examined Father Schiffer, it cannot be explained why, thirty-three years after the explosion, he was still living in good health without any of the usual after-effects of overexposure to radiation.
This is the hopeful message of Hiroshima: The prayer of the Rosary is more powerful than the nuclear bomb. Today in the center of the rebuilt city of Hiroshima, there is a Marian Memorial Shrine. Its fifteen glass windows depict the fifteen mysteries of the Rosary, which are prayed there day and night.
That is what I wanted to tell you of my native country, to encourage you.