Japanese martyr-priest still inspires

Recently beatified together with 187 other Japanese martyrs, Jihyoe had strong ties with the Philippines, where he lived from 1622 to 1631.

Japan
Jun 03 2014, 11:48 AM
Japanese martyr-priest still inspires
Crowds visit the San Agustin Church in Intramuros during Visita Iglesia 2014. The Japanese priest Thomas Jihyoe was here in the early 1600s.

The story of Father Thomas Jihyoe of St. Augustine, martyred 17th century Japanese priest, still remains relevant and can inspire the modern priest “to rise above today’s challenges,” Convento San Agustin-Manila local prior Fray Peter Casiño said.

Recently beatified together with 187 other Japanese martyrs, Jihyoe had strong ties with the Philippines, where he lived from 1622 to 1631.

Jihyoe returned to his homeland to work for the faith during the Tokugawa shogunate, when Christians were persecuted in Japan. He was martyred in 1637 because of his refusal to renounce Jesus.

Jihyoe was a teen when the Decree of Extinction was imposed during the Edo period in 1614, seeking the suppression of Christianity in the land.

Jihyoe was first educated in Japan by Portuguese Jesuits, who taught him Latin and public speaking, Casiño said. He continued his studies in Macau and returned to Japan five years later to work as catechist and preacher.

In 1622, Jihyoe went to Manila and joined the Augustinians because of the “great admiration” he had for the order and the works it did in Japan, Casiño said. He was professed in Manila in 1624 and later ordained priest in Cebu.

Jihyoe returned to Nagasaki in 1631 to “take part in the sufferings of the faithful” and try what he could do to protect them from the persecutors, Casiño said.

He suffered three shipwrecks before finally reaching Japanese shores. Back in Edo, the Japanese Augustinian kept his religious identity and evangelization work from the local rulers and got employed as a sword-bearer and horse cleaner in Nagasaki using the name “Kintsuba”, while at the same time doing his mission. His ministry was disclosed to the shogunate in 1636, five years after he arrived home. Upon arrest, he told his captors, “I am Father Thomas Jihyoe of St. Augustine.”

He was tortured for several months to force him to deny Christianity, Casiño said. On August 21, 1637, he was subjected to the torture of the pit, where he was hung upside down over a hole with 12 others.

On November 6, Jihyoe was hung again by the feet over the hole, he said. Refusing to relinquish Christianity, his head was buried into a rotting pile of garbage until he died. He was 35.

With the religion enjoying free expression today, the modern priest still has “an ocean and sword to brave to continue the mission,” Casiño said.

Source: CBCP News

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