Stay away from war shrine, Japanese bishops warn

In a booklet under the signature of Tokyo Archbishop Takeo Okado, the Japanese bishops warn Catholics that there is no justification for visiting the national Yasukuni war shrine because of the risk of "glorifying war".

AsiaNews reports that the the booklet entitled The Position of the Catholic Church Before, During and after the War urges Catholics to love their own country but also their neighbours who suffered from Japanese imperialism.

Published by the Episcopal Commission for Social Issues, it asks Catholics not to visit the Yasukuni Shrine where the remains of some the worst war criminals of World War II are buried.

It is "impossible to say there is nothing to hinder Catholics' visiting Yasukuni Shrine even in a private capacity", the booklet says.

The Church and Japanese society have undergone profound changes since 1936, when the Vatican Congregation Pro Propaganda Fide first allowed Catholic schools to be compelled as part of the school curriculum to pay their respects at national Shinto Shrines.

Today there is no longer a state religion and the constitution does not recognise the possibility of one. Therefore, there is no justification in visiting Yasukuni to pay one's respect to the dead, the bishops say.

"The shrine is dedicated only to those who died fighting for the glory of the emperor in wartime. Isn't honouring these men somehow glorifying war? Does it not give this impression to the people of the nations that were invaded?" the booklet asks.

The Church does not deny of love of country, but also warns of the danger in emphasizing this to the exclusion of neighbouring nations. Instead: "Love your neighbouring country as you love your own".

Visits to the shrine by former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi when he was in office have been met with hostilities by other Asian nations, especially by China and South Korea.

Catholics not to visit Yasukuni, Catholics bishops say (AsiaNews, 21/11/06)
CBCJ booklet says Catholics should not visit Yasukuni shrine (Japan Catholic News, November 2006)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Yasukuni Shrine (Wikipedia)
Catholic Bishops Conference of Japan

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22 Nov 2006