March 11, 2022

Dear brothers and sisters in the Archdiocese of Tokyo:

On the ELEVENTH Year since the Great East Japan Earthquake

Eleven years have passed since the Great East Japan Earthquake that occurred on 11th March 2011. As we commemorate this event once again this year, let us pray for the eternal repose of those who have died from this great disaster and those who have died struggling through the difficult times after the earthquake. Furthermore, there are still many people who remain missing, as well as people who continue to live in various conditions away from home. And so we also pray from our hearts that hope may truly be restored in the Tohoku region.

For the past 10 years since the great earthquake, the Church has been committed to implement activities to support the restoration of the Tohoku region to animate life and fulfill its role in bringing hope for life. At the end of March last year, the concerted efforts of all the dioceses nationwide was for the moment officially put to an end. However, considering that the Church is deeply rooted in the local area, we realize that the support of the universal Church through the church communities in various parts of the Tohoku region has continued to progress.

On his visit to Japan in November 2019, Pope Francis during the meeting with the victims of the Triple Disaster spoke the following words:

“Without basic resources such as food, clothing and shelter, it is not possible to live a worthy life and have the bare minimum needed to succeed in rebuilding. This, in turn, calls for experiencing the solidarity and support of a community. No one “rebuilds” by himself or herself; nobody can start over alone. We have to find a friendly and fraternal hand, capable of helping to raise not just a city, but also our horizon and our hope.”

God unceasingly tells us through these ten years of restoration support activities by the Church that we are living our lives to help each other, to support one another, to save lives, to create opportunities and bring hope.

The Church is now journeying together the synodal path. With the theme of “Communion, Participation, Mission,” this journey, which seeks to manifest the nature of the synodal Church, requires us to “journey together.”

In the Synod 2023 Preparatory Document we are asked, “A synodal Church, in announcing the Gospel, “journeys together:” How is this “journeying together” happening today in your particular Church? What steps does the Spirit invite us to take in order to grow in our “journeying together?” For the Church in Japan, the activities supporting the restoration of the Tohoku region were truly an experience of “journeying together.” Through communion, it was a journey of concretely proclaiming the Gospel. It was a journey where many people were able to “participate” in their own little way. We hope to learn from that ten-year journey.

This coming 19th March, the Diocese of Sendai will have Bishop Edgar Gacutan for its new shepherd. As we express our heartfelt gratitude to Bishop Hiraga for overcoming the disaster and for leading the flock to the path of recovery, let us continue our journey of restoring opportunities and bringing hope, together with the new shepherd, Bishop Edgar Gacutan.

Tarcisio Isao Kikuchi, SVD
Archbishop of Tokyo