ASIA/JAPAN - Among the "treasures of faith", the experience of Blessed Angelo Orsucci, missionary in Japan

Tuesday, 9 April 2024 faith   missionaries   mission   evangelization  

Vatican City (Agenzia Fides) - Among the "treasures of faith" presented by the traveling exhibition "Thesaurum fidei: Missionary martyrs and hidden Christians in Japan. Three hundred years of heroic fidelity to Christ", curated by Paolo Giulietti and Olimpia Niglio, is the experience of Blessed Angelo Orsucci (1573-1622). As Father Marcello Brunini, Director of the Diocesan Historical Archives of Lucca, says, Orsucci was "imbued with a deep desire to proclaim the beauty of the Gospel in the encounter with new peoples." That's why he left Lucca, traveled by ship to Spain, arrived in Valencia and finally reached the Philippines via Mexico and from there to Japan, his final destination. "Angelo is a messenger of the good and beautiful message, which he proclaims and witnesses until his death," he remarks. From the catalog that collects part of the documentation of the missionary adventure of the religious man from Lucca and his martyrdom that took place in Nagasaki on September 10, 1622, traces the history of Christianity in the East Indies between the end of the 16th and the beginning of the 17th century. "In this way we become acquainted with the impact of the first proclamation of the Gospel in Japan in those centuries. We are led to a more precise knowledge of Blessed Angelo's growth in faith, the events of his imprisonment and martyrdom. We will be introduced to the events of recognition of his holiness and to the memory and veneration that the Church has bestowed on him over time," notes Father Brunini. In a 1602 letter from Manila to his father, he wrote: "It seems that these empires are not of this world, nevertheless here is really the world and not there [in Europe]". "The desire of Blessed Father Angelo to step out of his known 'space' and to go 'unarmed' into new and unexplored paths can be an incentive today to nourish our own desires that drive us, also through the encounter with previous experiences, "to enter with respect and open curiosity into concrete or symbolic territories that are new and unexplored, of culture, of the future, of humanity, of faith," hopes Father Brunini.
The objects collected and displayed in the exhibition include documents and volumes in Italian, Latin, Japanese and Spanish and come from various sources, including the Vatican Apostolic Archives, the Historical Archives of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples (formerly 'de Propaganda Fide ') and the State Library of the National Monument “Santa Scolastica” in Subiaco. The curator of the exhibition, Archbishop Paolo Giulietti of Lucca, contextualizes the figure of Blessed Orsucci: "The process of evangelization of Japan, which began in 1549 with the arrival of St. Francis Xavier, recorded an initial success: a large number of people converted and received baptism, including some important feudal lords of the Kyushu region. Everything changed with the seizure of power by the Tokugawa shogun, who unified the country and became de facto the highest authority. As part of a policy of rigid isolation from all foreign influence, in 1612 the “Kinkyo-rei”, the ban on Christianity in Japan, was promulgated." Thus, a season of systematic and radical persecution began, destined to last over 250 years. "During this long and sad period, two phenomena occurred that are of greatest interest to the history of evangelization: the missionaries who continued to work in secret for a few years in the land of the Rising Sun and met certain death. And that of the 'hidden Christians' who, after the end of the missionary flows, kept the flame of faith burning in families and small communities, also defying death, in absolute secrecy.
Archbishop Giulietti explains that the Dominican friar Angelo (Michele) Orsucci, who came from Lucca, was among the first: "His missionary longing and his desire for martyrdom led him to Japan, where he landed in 1618. After a few months he was discovered and imprisoned. During his four years in prison he managed to write to his family: 'I am very happy for the favor our Lord has shown me and I would not exchange this prison for the greatest palaces in Rome'. He was martyred on 10 September 1622".
The anniversary of the 450th anniversary of the birth of the Blessed (8 May, 1573) was used as an opportunity to dedicate an exhibition to the extraordinary history of the missionary martyrs and "hidden Christians" in Japan. "The memory of the missionary martyrs and the 'hidden Christians'," said Archbishop Giulietti, "is not only a tribute to a glorious history, but also has a unique actuality: The 'outgoing church' desired by Pope Francis will not be able to develop if the appreciation for the precious gift of faith and the zeal for mission among the people of God diminish. Today, like back then in Japan, is the time of courage". (PA) (Agenzia Fides, 9/4/2024)