Tuesday, July 14, 2015

"called his father Jacob to him" - The Vatican and the Emperor of Japan


The Vatican and the Emperor of Japan

The Emperor of Showa instructed Prime Minister Tojo to send an envoy to the Vatican a few months after the Pearl Harbor Attack.

The Emperor himself was involved in choosing the minister plenipotentiary to be sent to the Vatican.  Though it is not considered today that the Vatican played any key role in the diplomacy of the Empire of Japan during WWII, it is very interesting that the Emperor took a rare initiative in Japan's diplomacy in sending the envoy to the Vatican when the Imperial Government had an optimistic view about the prospect of the then on-going war against the US and the UK after the Pearl Harbor Attack of December 1941.

After WWII, the Emperor of Japan recalled why he had tried to strengthen the relationship with the Vatican after the Pearl Harbor Attack.  According to the Emperor, the major reasons were: gather information related to international situations through the Vatican, study a possibility of using a big influence the Vatican had on the world, and prepare for the time to end the war where a tie with the Vatican would be useful.

However, the Emperor of Showa admitted that he had not been able to find a suitable diplomat or a politician who could effectively work on the Vatican, since the war had already started.  And, he also stated that the bad relationship between Hitler and the Vatican had some adverse effect on his plan to make the Vatican more friendly to the Empire.

Nonetheless, it is very interesting that after WWII the Emperor of Showa dared to mention his view on the Vatican.  It showed that the Emperor viewed the world rather pragmatically.  With reference to other information sources, it seems that in Emperor's view the Empire had at the time only two cards diplomatically, that is, the Vatican and the Soviet Union, since the Empire got into the state of belligerence with the US, the UK, etc.

It also represented a common view among learnt Japanese around WWII.  The world was virtually ruled by the Western Powers, and at the core of Europe the Vatican had an implicit influence.  And not only European countries but also Christian countries in Asia, Africa, and Americas would listen to the Vatican.  So, it is better for Japan to keep good relationship with the Vatican.  And, basically, these conditions have not changed to the present day.

But, how has the Vatican viewed Japan in these centuries?

Apparently, the Vatican failed in its mission to Japan since the 16th century.  From the middle 17th century to the middle of the 19th century Japan led by a samurai regime closed the nation to prevent influx of Catholicism.  Even after Japan opened the door and assured freedom of religion to its people after the Meiji Restoration of 1868, there has been no wide diffusion of Catholicism in Japan.  Today, Catholics account for less than 0.4% among the Japanese population.

The relationships between the Vatican and Japan, including one between the Vatican and the Imperial family of Japan, seem to remain yet-to-be-defined.    

Emperor of Showa and the Pope in 1981, Tokyo

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Act 7:13 And at the second time Joseph was made known to his brethren; and Joseph's kindred was made known unto Pharaoh.
Act 7:14 Then sent Joseph, and called his father Jacob to him, and all his kindred, threescore and fifteen souls.
Act 7:15 So Jacob went down into Egypt, and died, he, and our fathers,