Message from Pr. Cipriano


The famous Christian feudal lord Justo Takayama Ukon (1552-1615) is known as a typical feudal lord active in the middle of the 16th century.

Takayama Ukon was baptized at the age of 12 along with his father Dario.

Ukon was an active and trusted vassal of Oda Nobunaga(1534-1582), as well as of Hideyoshi, Nobunaga's successor. Although Hideyoshi had previously shown understanding toward the Christianity, in 1587 he suddenly did an about-face in his religious policy, ordering the deportation of Missionaries, destroying churches in Kyoto and Osaka, and urging the Christian feudal lords to renounce their faith. Ukon, refusing to renounce his faith, was deprived of his rank and his fiefdom was attacked.

After the death of Hideyoshi, the Tokugawa family took control of the whole country and established their shogunate government in Edo. They continued to pursue a policy of prohibiting Christianity. Did the shogunate fear the influence of Ukon? They exiled him to the Philippines along with more than 300 Christians.

On reaching Manila, they were given a national welcome, but before long Ukon fell gravely ill and died in Manila during the night of February 3, (1615), some 40 days after his arrival there. He was given a national funeral and was buried in the Phirippines.

Immediately after his death his reputation as a martyr spread, and the investigation for his canonization began. But at that time it was difficult to collect data in Japan, so the process could not be continued. Now, however, the Church of Japan, in cooperation with the Church of the Phippines, is actively pursuing the cause of Ukon's canonization.

Ukon was often placed in situations where important and decisive life choises had to be made. He held clear principles for choosing the right one. The greatest decision of Ukon's life was in 1587. When Hideyoshi gave strict orders to him to abandon Christianity, and if he would not do do, his fiefdom would be confiscated and he would be banished, Ukon refused to renounce his faith. He was banished and led a wanderer's life for 27 years.

When Tokugawa Ieyasu came to power after Hideyoshi's death. ordered Ukon, who still retained his faith, to leave the country. Ukon departed from Nagasaki on November 8, 1614. At present, the the Catholic Church of Japan is petitioning for Ukon'canonization as as a Martyr.

Fr.Cipriano Bontacchio