20th April 2016Changing Rooms
9th March 2016No Bread
17th February 2016The Right Fight
22nd October 2015Selfies Kill More People Than Sharks
23rd September 2015Marriage Is Sacred
9th September 2015Japan's Hidden Christians
13th August 2015God is bigger
29th July 2015God Does Wonders
22nd July 2015Daniel’s Story of Deliverance
25th June 2015Elisabeth Elliot
13th June 2015One Small Step for Man, One Giant Leap for Mankind
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3rd March 2015Live Long and Prosper
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24th February 2014My First Blog
Japan's Hidden Christians
by Mike Keating on Wednesday, 9th of September 2015

It is 12:30 at noon in Nagasaki, on March 17, 1865. Father Bernard Petitjean, a 

priest of the French Societe des Missions Etrangeres hears a noise at the back 

door of his little chapel. On opening he is surprised to find a group of 15 middle-

aged Japanese men and women - surprised because all native-born subjects of 

the Mikado are strictly forbidden to associate with Christians and his chapel has 

been declared to be reserved only for foreigners. 

Christianity had been shut out of Japan for 200 years. 



Until now he has had no visitors. But here, standing before him are these 15 

people, looking very frightened and not a little unsure of themselves. 

One 60-year-old lady kneels beside him and asks whether he is a Christian. He 

answers ‘Yes’. She places her hand on her heart and says: "The hearts of all of us 

here do not differ from yours." 

By now the priest is weeping with joy. He invites the small group in. There are 25 

"Christianities" in the area, they explain, and seven ''Baptizers." They have 

longed for the return of priests. In a few days Father Petitjean will indeed meet 

some 2,500 well-instructed, devout and practicing Christians. Later, in Kyushu, 

another 15,000. They will all be fully instructed and devout. Cut off from all 

contact with the outside world, they will have all lived faithful to the memory of 

their ancestors who died for Christ, long ago. 


In the wake of St. Francis Xavier's great mission in the early 1550's, they had 

converted many of the more prominent daimyos (lords) of central Japan, built 

churches, installed and operated a printing press, and administered an academy 

of fine arts. In 1602 two Japanese Jesuit priests had been ordained; in 1604 the 

first diocesan priest. By 1610 Japanese Christians numbered over half a million. 

But politics intervened, as did the natural Japanese suspicion of strangers. The 

ports of Japan were closed to European vessels, and sentences of death decreed 

on all priests. In 1610, the Shogun Tokugawa Leysau ordered that all Christians 

return to some form of Buddhism or be put to death. Within two generations, over 

a quarter of a million Japanese Christians were so executed. By 1710, the Church 

had effectually been destroyed. 


But not quite. A faithful few fed and fostered their faith, without bishop or priests 

or religious, without any other external assistance.

When the small remnant came to Father Petitjean's church at Nagasaki on March 

17, 1865, they came, in fact, as witnesses to one of the most extraordinary acts of 

persevering faith in the long history of the Church.


- Ps Mike