The Cardinal Poet
· Interview with Thomas Aquino Manyo Maeda ·
“A clear sky/a rumble/like that of Pentecost”: this was the verse with which Thomas Aquino Manyo Maeda, master of the Japanese short poetic form known as haiku, expressed his reaction to Pope Francis’s decision to add him to the College of Cardinals. The Archbishop of Osaka, born in the Archdiocese of Nagasaki and having served as a pastor in Hiroshima—the two cities martyred by nuclear folly – shared these thoughts in an interview with L’Osservatore Romano in which he also spoke of the role of the Church in an increasingly secularized Japan.
What did you do when you heard that the Pope had named you a cardinal?
At first I was puzzled and, overcome with astonishment, I asked myself, Why me? I’m not qualified! Then, without even thinking about it, I composed the verse, “A clear sky/a rumble/like that of Pentecost”, because that announcement was so unexpected. After some time, I thought, if this is the work of the Holy Spirit, then this same Spirit will give me the strength to carry out the job.
What are the biggest challenges that the Church in Japan must overcome?The most urgent issues are that the number of faithful is not increasing, and there are fewer and fewer vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life. To combat this trend, I believe that the faithful, the clergy and religious should have a greater awareness of the importance of living the faith with joy. If we live our faith with this joy, I am sure that the number of Catholics will increase, as well as the number of vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life. It is above all important to evangelize these very ecclesiastical communities. Despite knowing how to intervene, due to lack of courage, or simply out of timidity, these communities appear unable to respond to others.
Is it possible to evangelize in a secular society?
It is precisely because we live in a society in which secularization is quite advanced that preaching the Gospel becomes ever more necessary. Indeed, it seems that a growing number of individuals is seeking a message of good news like the one found in the Gospel. To meet this need, it is necessary to cultivate enthusiasm and renew our methods and expressions of proclaiming that message.