Monday, 24th November 2008
In Events In Japan,
Service commemorates Catholic martyrs
Christians from across Japan have gathered to commemorate the killing of 187 Roman Catholics in the 17th century.
A service was held in Nagasaki to honour the martyrs who, it is believed, were executed for not renouncing their Christian faith.
Father Paul Miki Murakami, a Catholic priest in Tokyo, told the BBC: "Many Japanese people today will find it difficult to understand why the martyrs gave up their lives, but these were in a sense a spiritual elite."
At that time there were around 400,000 Catholics in Japan. Burning at the stake and crucifixion were common methods of death.
Father Murakami believes that Japan's economic boom during the 1960s and 1970s was a factor in the decline of the Catholicism in the country.
Currently, less than one per cent of people in Japan define themselves as Christian, with most people subscribing to Buddhism or the traditional Shinto faith.