The Japanese Samurai Who May Soon Be Declared A Catholic Saint

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Takayama Ukon (高山右近) or Dom Justo Takayama was born to be the heir and the lord of Sawa Castle in the Yamato Province. His name as a child was Hikogorō (彦五郎). At the age of 12 in 1564, Ukon converted to Catholicism, following the suit of his father and the mission of Saint Francis Xavier, and Hikogorō was christened as Justo by Jesuit Fr. Gaspare di Lella..

Justo and his father fought through the turbulent age to secure their position as a daimyo (A Japanese Feudal Lord). They managed to acquire Takatsuki Castle under the warlord Nobunaga. During their domination of Takatsuki Region, Justo and his father Dario pushed their policy as Kirishitan daimyo (Christian daimyo) forward. Many of his fellows converted under his influence.

A statue of Dom-Justo-Takayama
A statue of Dom-Justo-Takayama

However, Nobunga’s successor, the warlord Toyotomi Hideyoshi grew against Christianity and, in 1587, he ordered the expulsion of missionaries. While many daimyo obeyed this order and discarded Catholicism, Justo proclaimed that he would maintain his religion and rather give up his land and property.

Justo lived under the protection of his friends for several decades, but following the 1614 prohibition of Christianity by Tokugawa Ieyasu, the ruler of the time, he was expelled from Japan. On 8 November 1614, together with 300 Japanese Christians he peacefully left his home country from Nagasaki. He arrived at Manila on 21 December and was greeted warmly by the Spanish Jesuits and the local Filipinos there.

When he died in 1615, the Spanish government gave him with a Christian burial, replete with full military honors befitting a Daimyo. He is the first Daimyo to be buried in Philippine soil.

Ukon is being considered for sainthood for his desire to die as a martyr. Instead of commiting seppuku, the honorable suicide by sword reserved for samurais, Ukon allowed himself to live through his exile. He died of an illness 40 days later.

Historical consultants met to discuss the cause in December 2013 and the cardinal and bishops of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints met on 18 June 2015 to make a final decision on the cause before could go to Pope Francis for papal approval.

“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,” Fr. Witwer, a general postulator of the Society of Jesus, explained.

On 21 January 2016, Pope Francis signed a decree approving his beatification as being that of martyrdom; it will be celebrated in 2016 with the date to be confirmed sometime in the near future.

Text via wikipedia

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  1. […] Fue en agosto de 2013 cuando la Conferencia Episcopal japonesa presentó un informe de aproximadamente 400 páginas, con todos los documentos necesarios para la causa de beatificación de Takayama Ukon, un daimyo (esto es, un señor feudal japonés) del siglo XVI que prefirió perder sus territorios y privilegios antes que renunciar a la fe católica que había abrazado a los doce años de edad. Y fue en enero de 2016 cuando el Papa Francisco firmó el decreto de aprobación de la causa. […]

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