No Way for Japan

Japan Catholic News – Catholic Weekly, March 15, 2009

In a March 7 Lenten message to his diocese, Takamatsu Bishop Osamu Mizobe formally announced the closing of the much disputed international mission seminary Redemptoris Mater conducted by the NeoCatechumenal Way. He called on the faithful of Takamatsu for cooperation in executing the decision. The formal announcement was the latest step in a long controversy.

In Oct. 2007, after the diocesan advisory board declared its intention to close the Takamatsu school, the Vatican conducted further investigation. After complicated negotiations, in June of last year Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone announced Rome’s decision in a letter.

According to the cardinal’s message, the seminary would be closed as a diocesan institute and would be moved to Rome. Finally, a delegate would be sent by the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples to confer with the priests of the NeoCatechumenal Way who would be affected by the decision.

Thereafter, the Takamatsu diocese engaged in the necessary legal steps to close the school, following guidelines of Japan’s Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology. As the last step in this procedure, the diocese made an official public report of its proceedings in the middle of February. It stated that the land and buildings set aside for the seminary would not be used for theological training. However, the diocese will retain ownership of the assets.

The seminarians and faculty not directly tied to the Takamatsu diocese transferred to Rome in the fall of last year.

Concerning the NeoCatechumenal Way’s continuing disagreement with the decision, Bishop Mizobe said, "Justice isn’t something that changes itself depending on the situation or time. When division occurs within and control is lost, there is no other way than leaving it up to the bishop’s judgment."

In the wake of the controversy, the bishop made clear his desire that both priests and parishioners undergo a radical change of thinking. Emphasizing the strong bonds between a bishop and his priests, Bishop Mizobe sent out a call for a renewal of harmony.

"The people of the diocese need to come together with an attitude of consideration for parishes, districts and the diocese," he said.

The bishop also referred to the "nursery" state in which European and American missionaries established churches and influence in regions new to Christianity. He announced Takamatsu’s "graduation" from the nursery.

"Now that we no longer have a seminary, the thing I most want people to realize is that it’s OK to have small parishes in a small diocese. It’s something that we can use our own hands to make. By ‘we’ I mean all the faithful that live in the diocese, everyone as individuals," he said.

Bishop Mizobe addressed the youth and the priests of the diocese directly, urging them to accept the decision as confirmed by the Vatican.

The letter contained a clear warning to the leadership of the NeoCatechumenal Way. Bishop Mizobe urged them to consider the needs of the diocese before their own agenda, to follow the will of the local bishop and specifically forbade them to continue their custom of celebrating their own Holy Week services apart from the rest of the local Church.

After half a year of waiting, the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples decided on Francisco de Javier Sotil Vaios Espiriceta as delegate. His trip to Japan was announced for March 10-25, with visits to the areas in which priests associated with the NeoCatechumenal Way are working.

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