By Charles Igwe
This week, Pope Francis enacted the merger of the Diocese of Takamatsu and the Metropolitan Archdiocese of Osaka in Japan.
Cardinal Thomas Aquino Manyo Maeda, who has served as the archbishop of Osaka since 2014, was appointed on August 15 as the inaugural archbishop of the newly formed Archdiocese of Osaka-Takamatsu. The last bishop of the Diocese of Takamatsu, John Eijiro Suwa, passed away in 2022.
Despite being located on separate islands—Takamatsu on Shikoku Island and Osaka on Honshu—the territories are connected by the Osaka Bay and Seto Inland Sea waterways, as well as by land through Awaji Island, which was previously part of the former Archdiocese of Osaka.
The consolidated archdiocese is home to approximately 51,413 Catholics, constituting less than one-third of 1% of the total population of 19 million in the region.
Japan’s Catholic Church currently comprises 15 dioceses. According to the most recent Vatican data, Catholics account for only 0.5% of the population in this predominantly secular nation. About half of these Catholics are foreign nationals engaged in temporary unskilled labor positions.
During his visit to Japan in 2019, Pope Francis encouraged the country’s bishops, affirming that the Church’s size should not deter its commitment to evangelization. He emphasized the significance of ministering in people’s everyday settings and routines.
Catholicism made its debut in Japan in 1549, with the arrival of the Jesuit missionary St. Francis Xavier. Over the subsequent four centuries, Nagasaki became a central hub of Catholicism in Japan. This city was a haven for the “hidden Christians,” who tenaciously upheld their faith despite severe waves of persecution.
Throughout the late 16th to the 18th century, numerous Christians in Japan, including St. Paul Miki and his 25 companions, paid the ultimate price for their faith. Their unwavering commitment culminated in their crucifixion on Nishizaka Hill in Nagasaki in 1597.