Diocese of Nagasaki


Nagasaki, capital of the prefecture (ken) of the same name, is situated on a small peninsula on the south-eastern coast of the Island of Kiushiu, Japan. Its harbour, enclosed on three sides by mountains sloping down to the sea-shore and sheltered on the fourth (the entrance) by numerous islands, is one of the safest and most important in Japan. Being the first port of entry for vessels coming from the south and west, it is also one of the leading coaling-stations of the Far East. The principal industries of the town are the manufacture of engines and ship-building. It imports mainly cotton, coal, sugar, and petroleum; among its chief exports are coal, rice, flour, camphor, and tobacco. In the first ten centuries of our era we find references to the town under no less than seven distinct names, of which Fukaye no Ura (Fukaye Bay) is the best known. Its present name is probably derived from a certain Nagasaki Kotaro, who, about 1185-90, received Fukaye no Ura as his fief. Prior to the arrival of the Christian missionaries, however, Nagasaki was an insignificant village.

Although St. Francis Xavier's missionary labours in Japan were confined to the territory now included in the Diocese of Nagasaki — the ecclesiastical history of this territory is practically identical with the early Christian history of Japan — the town of Nagasaki appears not to have been visited by the missionaries until 1569. In this year Father Vilela, S.J., erected a church on the site of a pagoda which had been given him by the Christian lord of the district, and in 1571 had already made 1500 converts. In 1570 the Portuguese began trading with Nagasaki. Yinzeyemon, the imperial governor of the province, received them kindly, and, perhaps to induce them to trade with him alone, and thus to prevent others from obtaining fire-arms, affected to favour the Christian religion. When, however, the traders and missionaries, as a safeguard against future oppression, insisted on his recognizing the ecclesiastical authority over the territory of Nagasaki, he showed great hesitation and yielded to their wishes only when they threatened to withdraw and choose some other headquarters if their request were refused. From the arrival of the foreigners dates the rapid growth of Nagasaki, numbers of the native merchants settling in the town in the hope of enriching themselves by foreign commerce. By 1587 the last traces of the Buddhist and Shinto religions had vanished from the district, which already contained three principal churches (called by the Japanese Ki-kuwan "strange sight") and numerous chapels. To 1587 must also be referred Hideyoshi's sudden change of attitude towards Christianity (see ). Influenced by the bonzes' insinuations concerning the ultimate aim of the missionaries, he issued, during a night of orgy (24 July), a decree proscribing the Christian religion and ordering the Jesuits to leave Japan within twenty days. Subsequently, however, the taiko grew calmer and consented to ten fathers remaining at Nagasaki, nor did he adopt any active measures to suppress Christianity as long as outward respect was shown for his decrees.

The San Felipe incident, however (see ), led to a new persucution in 1596, and twenty-six missionaries (6 Franciscans, 3 Jesuits, and 17 Japanese Christians) were crucified at Nagasaki in 1597. Persistent rumors that the taiko was about to revisit Kiushiu in person led the Governor of Nagasaki, who had previously shown himself not unfavourable towards the Christians, to send a force to destroy the churches and residences of the missionaries in 1598. In the territory of the present Diocese of Nagasaki 137 churches of the Jesuits were demolished, as well as their college in Amakusa and their seminary in Arima. The death of Hideyoshi on 16 Sept., 1598, put an end to this persecution. Iyeyasu, anxious to promote commerce with the Philippines, allowed free ingress to the missionaries, and, beyond enforcing the law that no daimio should receive baptism, showed at first no hostility to Christianity. In 1603 Nagasaki, the population of which had grown from about 2500 to 24,500 in fifty years, possessed eleven churches. About 1612 or 1613 the bonzes — assisted, it is to be feared, by some English and Dutch captains — succeeded in thoroughly alarming Iyeyasu as to some imaginary intrigue between certain of his officers and the representatives of Philip III of Spain and Portugal. On 27 January, 1614, orders were issued for the expulsion of the missionaries and the destruction of the churches. In 1622, Nagasaki was the scene of the "Great Martyrdom". (See ) In 1629 the custom of Fumi-ye, or trampling on the crucifix, was introduced; paper pictures were at first used, but later more durable images were utilized — at first wood, and still later (1669) 20 bronze images cast by an engraver of Nagasaki from metal obtained from the altars of the demolished churches. Between the 4th and 9th day of the first month of each year all suspect Christians were called upon to trample on these images: those who refused were banished from their homes, and when again caught, if still recalcitrant, were taken to the boiling springs of Shimabara and thrown in, or subjected to crucifixion and various kinds of refined torture. Goaded into action by such persecution and by the miseries consequent on the suppression of the religious houses, which had been the only source of alleviation for the needs of the impoverished peasantry, the people rose in revolt, in 1637, but, after some fierce fighting, were crushed by the shogun's forces, assisted by Dutch artillery. In 1640 four Portuguese envoys from Macao were seized at Nagasaki, and, on refusing to apostatize, were put to death.

For more than two centuries after 1640, Japan was practically closed to the outside world. The persistent attempts of missionaries to penetrate into the country during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries had no other success than that of winning them the martyr's crown. The discovery of a large body of Christians by Father Petitjean on 17 March, 1865, when he was establishing the first Catholic church in Nagasaki, after the reopening of Japan to the missionaries, has been referred to in the article . In 1866 this zealous missionary was created Bishop of Myriophyte and Vicar Apostolic of Japan, and in 1876, on the division of the territory into two vicariates, he retained the administration of Southern Japan (1879-85). On the cessation of persecution (see ), Mgr Petitjean devoted his whole energy to winning back into the Fold the descendants of the old Christians, organizing the first Christian districts, and founding a seminary for the formation of a native clergy. He was succeeded as Vicar Apostolic by Mgr Julius Alphonsus Cousin (b. April, 1842), now Bishop of Nagasaki. Father Cousin landed in Japan in 1866, and was the first missionary to penetrate into the Goto Islands. In 1869 he founded the first Catholic station at Osaka, where he laboured for eighteen years. Created Bishop of Acmonia in 1885, on succeeding Mgr Petitjean, he fixed his residence at Nagasaki, when Southern Japan was divided into two vicariates, in 1887. In 1890 the First Synod of Japan was held at Nagasaki, of which Mgr Cousin became first bishop, on the establishment of the Japanese hierarchy, in 1891. In 1897 the third centennial of the twenty-six Japanese martyrs, canonized by Pius IX in 1867, was celebrated by the construction and solemn benediction of the church of Our Lady of Martyrs at Nagasaki. The episcopal jubilee of Bishop Cousin was celebrated in 1910. During his episcopate of twenty-five years, Bishop Cousin has laboured to increase the native clergy and to extend the work of the mission. He has ordained 40 Japanese priests, founded 35 new stations (with residences), established 38 new Christian settlements, and built 50 churches and chapels. During his administration the Catholic population has more than doubled.

The Diocese of Nagasaki includes Kiushiu and the neighbouring islands — Amakusa, Goto, Ikitsuki, Tsushima, Oshima, and the Ryukyu (Lu Chu) Archipelago. The total population is about 7,884,900; the Catholic population was 47,104 in 15 Aug., 1910 (23,000 in 1885). The personnel of the mission is: 1 bishop, 36 missionaries (French), 26 diocesan priests (Japanese), 6 tonsured clerics, 35 native (male or female) catechists labouring for the conversion of pagans, 350 catechists entrusted with the instruction of the Christian communities, 15 itinerant baptizers (female). The mission auxiliaries, engaged in works of education and charity, are 17 Brothers of Mary (14 foreigners, including 3 priests), 21 Sisters of the Holy Child Jesus (Chauffailles — 5 Japanese), 16 Franciscan Sisters (Missionaries of Mary), 8 Sisters of St. Paul of Chartres (3 Japanese), 10 communities of native women, with 177 members. The establishments include: 40 mission stations with residences; 35 sub-stations; 153 Christian communities; 67 blessed churches and chapels; 52 unblessed oratories and chapels; 1 seminary with 31 students (8 theological; 4 philosophical; 19 studying Latin); 1 Apostolic school with 18 pupils (10 postulants of the Brothers of Mary); 1 college, primary and commercial, with 325 pupils (30 boarders); 1 school for women catechists, with 15 pupils; 3 boarding-houses for girls with 224 pupils; 1 professional school, with 18 pupils; 1 primary school for girls, with 149 pupils; 2 kindergartens, with 79 pupils; 8 orphanages, with 244 children (65 boarders); 2 workrooms, with 39 workers; 1 leper asylum, with 28 lepers; 3 hospitals, with 92 patients; 6 dispensaries (4005 patients cared for); 15 conference halls for religious instruction (total number of hearers about 2730). The Brothers of Mary have the direction of the Apostolic school and the college. The Sisters of Mary have the direction of the Apostolic school and the college. The Sisters of the Holy Child Jesus manage 2 boarding-houses (high-schools), the professional school, primary school, kindergartens, 2 orphan asylums, 1 hospital dispensary, 1 conference hall, and 1 work-room. The Franciscan Sisters have charge of the leper asylum, 1 hospital, 3 dispensaries, 2 conference halls, 1 orphan asylum, and 1 work-room; the Sisters of St. Paul of Chartres; 1 boarding-house (high-school), 1 hospital dispensary, 1 conference hall, and 1 orphan asylum. As the State insists on the attendance of all children between the ages of six and twelve at the secular public primary schools, parochial schools are practically impossible in Japan at present. The administrative statistics for the year ending 15 Aug., 1910, are: baptism of adults, 592 (208 in extremis and 8 abjurations); baptisms of pagan children (in extremis), 811; baptism of Christian children, 1645; annual confessions, 29,414; paschal communions, 25,015; Holy Viaticums, 340; extreme unctions, 476; marriages, 323; known deaths, 1067; increase, 1179.

In addition to the works named under Japan, consult Thurston, Japan and Christianity in The Month (Feb.-May, 1905); Wooley, Hist. Notes on Nagasaki in Asiatic Society of Japan: Transactions, IX (Yokohama, 1881), 125-51; Cary, Hist. of Christ. In Japan, I (New York,—); Chambers and Mason, Handbook of Japan (8th ed., London,1907); Okuma, Fifty Years of New Japan (2 vols., 2nd ed., London, 1910).


Copyright ©1999-2023 Wildfire Fellowship, Inc all rights reserved