Hiroshima, Japan, Oct 8, 2013 / 02:39 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The Diocese of Hiroshima is celebrating its 90th anniversary this year with programs for spiritual renewal, a focus on priestly vocations, and an effort to draw attention to local martyrs.
“Our series of faith renewal programs has boosted devotion, in reaffirming our life and renewal during the Year of Faith,” Fr. Harada, chancellor of the Hiroshima diocese, told CNA Oct. 2.
In May, Bishop Thomas Maeda of Hiroshima announced at an annual Mass in memory of the Tsuwano martyrs that he was initiating the diocesan phase of the cause for their canonization.
The Tsuwano martyrs were killed for their faith in the town of Tsuwano, around 90 miles west of Hiroshima, between 1603 and 1912. In the years following 1868, 36 Japanese Catholics died in exile at Tsuwano, locked in small cages, though they were reportedly comforted by a Marian apparition.
Every year, the people of the Hiroshima now undertake a “walking pilgrimage” with a Marian statue to the top of the hill where the Tsuwano martyrs were executed, Fr. Hattari, head of the local organization Apostles of Peace, related to CNA.
This year, the statue of Our Lady of Tsuwano, as well as one of Our Lady of Fatima, will tour various parishes of the diocese to commemorate both the Year of the Faith and the diocesan anniversary, returning to the cathedral Nov. 24 for the Year of Faith's closing Mass.
“We pray during the Year of Faith especially for vocations to the priesthood in each parish,” Fr. Hattari emphasized.
Taking the opportunity this year to “think about our faith,” Fr. Hattari added that diocesan initiatives will not be ending, but will continue with the theme “the light of faith.”
In August, the diocese commemorated the anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima by the United States in 1945.
A ten-day program of peace included a symposium, Masses, inter-religious prayer, exhibitions, and concerts meant to bring worldwide attention to efforts for peace. The event was attended by Cardinal Peter Turkson, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.
In 1981, Blessed John Paul II visited the city and appealed to the world, proclaiming that “to remember the past is to commit oneself to the future. To remember Hiroshima is to abhor nuclear war.”
The Hiroshima diocese was founded in 1923 as a vicariate apostolic, and was elevated to a diocese in 1959. The diocese has an area of over 1,200 square miles and a population of 7.7 million, of whom 0.3 percent – or 21,500 – are Catholic. Its 47 parishes are staffed by around 73 priests.