The Samurai of Christ

May 1, 2017 - 12:00am -- Living City

The Samurai of Christ​
Justo Takayama Ukon beatified

The solemn ceremony of beatification of Justo Takayama Ukon (1552–1615), “Samurai of Christ” and a hero of Japanese Catholics, was held on February 7 in Osaka.

Pope Francis had signed the decree of beatification in January 2016, and the Catholic Church in Japan has been preparing for the event for a long year now, requesting that the ceremony be celebrated on Japanese soil.

Born into a family of landowners, Ukon converted to Christianity at the age of 12, coming in contact with Jesuit missionaries. He followed in the footsteps of his father.

The Gospel had been introduced in Japan by the Jesuit Francis Xavier in 1549 and had quickly spread. When shogun Toyotomi Hideyoshi took power as the new military dictator and prohibited the practice of Christianity, all the great feudal lords accepted the measure, but not Ukon. He lost his properties, his position, his social status, his honor and respectability.

He became a wanderer and was forced into exile. With 300 other Japanese Christians he then fled to Manila where, just 40 days after arriving, he fell ill and died on February 4, 1615.

The Japanese faithful had already proclaimed his sanctity back in the 17th century, but the isolationist policy of the country at the time prevented canonical investigators from collecting evidence in order to certify his holiness.

Only in 1965 was his story and cause taken up by the Japanese bishops, who together promoted his process of beatification.