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Pope Francis

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Japanese treasures from Nagasaki churches on display in Rome

2016-02-07

Often, the island nation of Japan is not associated with Christianity. It is estimated that only one percent of Japanese practice this religion.

Practicing Christianity in Japan hasn't always been easy through the course of history, but now it can be practiced freely.

NAOTO MIYATAKE
Assistant to the Nagasaki Governor (Japan)
"The history of Christian Japanese started in the 16th century, which was when the religion arrived to Japan. It has continued for 400 years until now. During these 400 years, there have been strong bans. Despite this, there were still many Christians. Later, in the 19th century, when the government began to lift some of the bans, they began building churches in a mixed form, some with Western style and others in the Oriental style.”

Examples of these churches and the treasures they hold can be seen in Rome this week. The exhibition "Churches and Christian Sites of Nagasaki” had placed in the Palazzo della Cancelleria.

Christianity’s deepest roots in Japan are at Nagasaki. That's why it has been nominated as a candidate World Heritage Site in 2015.

Cities like Goto, Hamaki, Shiatsu, Ono, Koroshima and Tabra built churches during the 19th century. About 300 years prior, Francis Xavier had started a movement in Japan.

NAOTO MIYATAKE
Assistant to the Nagasaki Governor (Japan)
"Francis Xavier is widely known in Japan. He was the first person to bring Christian culture to Japan. First, he arrived in the Kagoshima province and then to Nagasaki, always as a Christian missionary. As school children, his name appeared in all of our history classes. All of the Japanese people, we know him.”

It was not until after the Second World War that Francis Xavier's messages and teachings were authorized. It had been almost 300 years since Xavier had traveled the world, and persecutions and bans had happened in Japan. 

Now, a window to Japan's greatest Christian treasures has opened in Rome. 


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