|Artwork Special Collection, AW24
Print of The Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God in Glory by Insho Domoto. The original is a large altar painting that hangs in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in the Diocese of Osaka, Japan
Catholicism was first introduced to Japan in 1549. However, it was outlawed in 1612 following the martyrdom of many missionaries and Japanese converts as a response to the perceived military threat by European trade partners. Catholic missionaries did not return until the 19th century. Though the the Osaka Cathedral was built in 1963, the site was chosen for its link to two Samurais who converted to Christianity in the 16th century.
This print was given to the Archdiocese by the Toronto Japanese Catholic Community.
In the beginning, missionary efforts in Japan were quite successful. Catholicism was introduced in 1549 by Jesuit priests from Spain, led by Francis Xavier (read our post about his relics here). The local feudal lords, military and imperial government allowed the Jesuits to establish Catholic missions in the hopes of curtailing the influence of Buddhist monks, as well as improving trade relations with Spain and Portugal.
However, as the numbers of Catholics rose to 300,000 over the following decades, Japanese rulers became more wary of the threat of colonialism. Christianity was banned and the Jesuits were expelled, though these decrees were not particularly well enforced.
In 1596, a Spanish trade vessel was shipwrecked along the coast of Japan and looted by the local lord. It caused a huge political incident with implications that Spain had sent missionaries to Japan to infiltrate the society in anticipation of a military conquest. The Japanese response was the crucifixion of 26 Catholics: six Franciscan missionaries including four Spaniards, one Mexican (St. Philip of Jesus, the first North American to be canonized), and one Indian; three Japanese Jesuits, including the revered St. Paul Miki; and seventeen Japanese laymen including three young altar boys.
Without leadership, the Church in Japan disintegrated until Western missionaries returned in the 19th century.
The connection to the Archdiocese of Toronto is that our third bishop, Most Rev. John Lynch, travelled to Rome to attend the martyrs' canonization by Pope Pius IX on June 8, 1862.
|Archbishop Lynch fonds, L RC 44.11
"Disegno di una medaglia, che, a testimonio perenne della loro venerazione e riconoscenza i Romani devoti alla S. Sede intendono dedicare ai Vescovi convenuti dalle loro diocesi per assistere alla solenne canonizzazione dell 8 giugno 1862."
Card showing the design of the medal struck to commemorate the dedication to the Holy See of the Catholic Bishops, who came from their dioceses to attend the canonization of the Martyrs of Japan, June 8, 1862
Two years later, Bishop Lynch blessed a new mission church in Bradford, Ontario, dedicating it to the Twenty-Six Japanese Martyrs. In 1940, the mission was split from St. John Chrysostom, Newmarket, and erected as a separate parish, Holy Martyrs of Japan.