There may be three million Christians in Japan, one percent of the population. They now have a Coptic Orthodox Church among their options.
Egypt’s Pope Tawadros arrived on August 26 to consecrate Japan’s first Coptic Orthodox congregation, the Church of St. Mary and St. Mark.
Tawadros hailed the cooperation between Japan and Egypt, especially the new initiative to establish Japanese schools to better the education system. He praised the Japanese people for their renaissance following nuclear disaster, and their ongoing commitment to peace.
The church, he said, preaches love in every place. The church is a mother, who searches for her children wherever they are.
And the church does not stay still. As St. Mark traveled the ancient world to come to Egypt, so the church today comes to Japan.
The church was first built one year ago in Kyoto, on July 16. Around 100 people attended in the opening, including many nationalities of Eastern Orthodox rite. There are around 20 member families, though the church welcomes all and seeks to serve Japanese society. Language lessons in Arabic and Japanese are one expression of this desire.
The first mass, however, was held in 2004 by Bishop Daniel of the Sydney Diocese of Australia, to which the Japanese church belongs. St. Mary and St. Mark Church has also joined the Japanese Confederation of Christian Churches.
Nestorian Christianity was the first to reach Japan, perhaps as early as the 5th century. St. Francis Xavier is credited as the first modern missionary, in 1549. His efforts faced severe persecution, chronicled in the book Silence, by Shusaku Endo, and now made into a feature film starring Liam Neeson.
Protestants and Orthodox came in the 19th century. Interestingly, eight Japanese prime ministers have been Christians.
“God loves the world and everyone in it,” said Tawadros. “The church knows no geography.”
Perhaps the best evidence is the Japanese character of the church. In addition to a Japanese language mass, two of the three deacons consecrated by Pope Tawadros were Japanese.
Even so, they were identified by their Coptic/Christian names: Tawadros, Makarios, and Athanasius.
“We hope that God will bless them and they will become great servants of this church,” said Tawadros, interviewed in Japan by CTV.
“The church has a spiritual role to present salvation and encourage repentance, but it must also have a role in society according to the local needs,” he continued.
“This is the idea of St. Mark himself.”
Pope Tawadros was received in Japan by the Egyptian ambassador, toured the Tokyo Museum, and met the mayor of Tokyo.
His visit also attracted the attention of the Japanese media, with this clip presented by NHK, Japan’s national public broadcasting organization.
The Coptic Media Center provided translation:
Title: People: Egyptian Christian Church- First visit to Japan for the Pope of the Coptic church
Picture: Pope Francis & H.H. Pope Tawadros II
Reporter: The person here standing next to Pope Francis is the Coptic Orthodox pope, His Holiness Pope Tawadros II. The first Coptic Orthodox church was established in Japan and H.H. came to Japan for the first time. Yesterday, he conducted a holy liturgy.
What kind of holy liturgy was it, I wonder?
Beyond the doors, you can hear a unique sound of prayers. Last year in October, a Coptic church was established in Japan. H.H. Pope Tawadros II conducted a holy liturgy there. At the holy liturgy, there were 100 church members gathered from around Japan.
Mr. Michel Youssef (church member): This is the first Coptic church in Japan and we are very happy that H.H. Pope Tawadros from Egypt had come today.
Reporter: The Coptic holy liturgy style had been continuing from ancient times. Icons of saints are on the wall and that had been brought from Egypt. The ladies cover their heads with scarves and (the Copts) respect and follow the traditions. But on the other hand, Japanese is used in the holy liturgy, and the clergy use PC tablets in their holy liturgy and it shows that they are keeping up with the modern technology.
The Coptic Orthodox church was founded around the 1st century, it is said that 10% of the Egyptian population are Coptic Christians. The Copts (Coptic community) have spread overseas to other countries such as Japan and Canada. One of the background reason for this is the presence of a group of Muslims (in Egypt) that considers Copts like enemies.
Rosemary: I think when they hear hate speeches like “kill people from other religions” that turns into persecution (against Copts).
Reporter: Continuously churches have been attacked because I.S. terrorists’ main aim is to attack churches. Regarding this issue, H.H. Pope Tawadros II commented on this:
H.H. Pope Tawadros II (Japanese subtitle): Terrorism divides the Egyptian people but Egypt is a strong country. (Addressing to Japanese people): let’s meet in Egypt.
Tomorrow night we will broadcast a Coptic studies researcher from Göttingen university (Mr. So Miyagawa) who will talk about how the Coptic clergy gives out information for Copts around the world. Please look forward to it tomorrow night.
I will update this post further if the follow-up video becomes available.