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Rome Reports

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Japanese university's gift to pope: Madonna that consoled persecuted Christians

Pope Francis was greeted by standing applause by Sophia University in Tokyo.

It's an educational center founded by Jesuits in 1913 and was the first Catholic university in this country.

In his speech, the pope emphasized the university's mission is not only to offer knowledge, especially in a country like Japan.

“In a society as competitive and technologically oriented as present-day Japan, this university should be a center not only of intellectual formation, but also a place where a better society and a more hope-filled future can take shape.”

Pope Francis recalled these young people must put their abilities to the service of those who need it most.

“Quality university education should not be the privilege of a few, but constantly informed by the effort to serve justice and the common good. A service to be carried out by each one in the sector in which he or she is called to work. This is a concern that regards everyone. Peter’s advice to Paul remains true today: that we not forget the poor.”

The pope did not want to say goodbye without thanking the whole Japanese community for their affectionate welcome to him in the Japanese lands.

As a symbol of affection for Pope Francis, students and teachers gave him a very significant gift. They gave him a sculpture of Kannon, the Buddhist goddess of mercy. Due to its close resemblance to the Virgin Mary, Christians would use it to pray without being discovered during persecution in Nagasaki.

Pope Francis gifted them a silver engraving of the Virgin as a token of his visit. After saying goodbye to some of the students, he left the building to applause.

Ángeles Conde.
Translated: Rachel Dobrzynski