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Historical Overview

Overview of the History of the Catholic Church in Japan

1549 Francisco Xavier lands in Kagoshima.
1563 Omura Sumitada baptized as the first Christian lord (daimyo).
1582 Delegation of four young envoys [Tensho Shonen Shisetsu] sets out for Europe.
1585 Pope Gregory XIII receives the young envoys in audience.
1587 Toyotomi Hideyoshi issues the edict forbidding Christianity and orders all missionaries to leave Japan. Takayama Ukon deprived of fief and status.
1597 26 Christians martyred at Nishizaka in Nagasaki.
1613 Tokugawa shogunate government implements the Ban on Christianity throughout Japan.
1614 Takayama Ukon banished to the Philippines. All churches in Kyoto and Nagasaki destroyed.
1622 55 Christians (priests and laity) martyred in Nagasaki (The Great Genna Martyrdom).
1627, 1628 or 1629 Introduction of the “Fumie” (forced trampling of Christian images).
1637 The Shimabara Uprising. (-1638)
1790 The first Urakami Persecution.
1839 The second Urakami Persecution.
1856 The third Urakami Persecution.
1856, 1857 or 1858 Nagasaki magistrate announces discontinuation of “Fumie” practice.
1862 The 26 Martyrs of Nagasaki canonized in Rome.
1865 Construction of Oura Church in Nagasaki completed. Descendants of the Hidden Catholics meet Fr. Petitjean at Oura, and confess their faith.
1867 205 Japanese Martyrs beatified in Rome. The fourth Urakami Persecution.
1868 The Meiji government takes over the ban on Christianity. 114 Urakami Christians are exiled to 3 different domains.
1870 More than 3000 Urakami Christians arrested and exiled to 21 different domains. (-1873)
1873 Abolition of signboards proscribing Christianity (tacit approval of Christian evangelization). Urakami Christians released.
1889 The Constitution of the Empire of Japan guarantees freedom of religion in Japan. Masses of thanksgiving offered in churches throughout Japan.
1945 An atomic bomb dropped over Nagasaki, 3 days after Hiroshima. Urakami Church was completely destroyed.
1959 Urakami Church is rebuilt, and becomes Cathedral in 1962.
1981 Pope (John Paul II) visits Japan (Tokyo, Hiroshima and Nagasaki) for the first time.

Note: There were many other Christian persecutions throughout Japan with martyrs totaling 10,000 to 20,000 depending on scholars.

Reference: “History of the Catholic Church in Japan.” Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Japan (CBCJ), with small modifications and additions by KAROLDVD-JC.