Speech on the Opening of the 50th Anniversary Year of Cologne/Tokyo Archdiocesan Partnership

22nd January, 2004


To all the faithful of Tokyo Archdiocese,

 This year is the 50th anniversary of the beginning of the sister church relationship, the partnership between Cologne Archdiocese and Tokyo Archdiocese. The anniversary year activities begin with the simultaneous celebration on the 25th of January of ‘Tokyo Day’ in Cologne and ‘Cologne Day’ in Tokyo.

I especially request prayers for our brothers and sisters in Cologne as we proceed to that day. As expressed in Cardinal Meisner’s message, this partnership from the beginning was based on shared prayer and mutual support. Over these 50 years, Tokyo has received much in the way of material support from Cologne, while Cologne has placed hope in the prayers and missionary spirit of the young Tokyo Church, rapidly growing during that time. Even now, the number of vocations to religious or clerical life is few in Japan. So I still think it is necessary for us to pray for vocations for both dioceses.

I visited Myanmar from the 8th of January to the 15th earlier this year and was fortunate to be able to meet with the bishops of the Myanmar Bishops’ Conference. I was deeply impressed by the vitality of the Myanmar church and reconfirmed Tokyo’s commitment to the shared partnership between our churches. This partnership was initiated by Cardinal Shirayanagi, in the spirit of Cologne Archdiocese, 25 years ago. I am considering how to make this partnership more meaningful and relevant for us. Accordingly I have invited two bishops from Myanmar to visit Tokyo to coincide with Cardinal Meisner’s journey here in March.

Our church is the ‘Catholic’ Church. That is a church that has spread throughout the world, and our faith in Christ lives within the bonds of this world church. In this anniversary year, I hope that we will experience the binding unity of the Kingdom of God that overcomes racial, national and ethnic barriers, and in our poverty we rediscover the joys of mutual sharing: this is my heartfelt prayer for this year.