Catholic Encyclopedia (1913)/Diocese of Hakodate

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Situated between 138† and 157† E. long., and between 37† and 52† N. lat., comprises the six northern provinces of the island of Nippon, the island of Yezo, and the Kurile Islands, as well as the administration of the southern part of the island of Saghalin, which still belongs to the Diocese of Mohilev. It contains about 9,000,000 Japanese inhabitants, 17,000 of whom are Aino aborigines, the last representatives of the primitive population of the Japanese archipelago; they are confined to the Island of Yezo and the Kuriles. At the last census (15 August, 1908) the number of Catholics was 4427. The Vicariate Apostolic of Hakodate, created 17 April, 1891, was made a diocese on 15 June of the same year. It was confided to the missionaries of the Société des Missions Etrangères of Paris, who in 1891 numbered twelve and resided at six stations in the territory designated above. The undersigned was the first bishop. The staff is at present composed of twenty-four missionaries of the same society, one Japanese priest and seventeen regulars. The residences number twenty. As auxiliaries the mission has three communities of men and four of women: Trappists (1896), Friars Minor (1907), and Fathers of the Society of the Divine Word (1907); Sisters of St. Paul of Chartres (1891), the Reformed Cistercians (1898), the Sisters of Steyl (1908), and the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary.

Christianity was widespread during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, but the only vestiges now left of these earlier missions are a few religious objects, crosses, statuettes, medals, pictures, and images, secretly preserved in families or preserved in the treasuries of pagodas. The actual Catholics are exclusively neophytes, recruited for the most part before 1895, at which time it was still believed that Christianity was the sole basis of true civilization. At present the instruction of all classes is dominated by materialism, and pride of success blinds the Japanese intelligence; consequently conversions to Catholicism have become rare and difficult. Each year, however, yields its small harvest of baptisms. During 1908 there were baptized in this diocese 345 adults. The writer is persuaded that the Japanese will yet come in large numbers to the Catholic Church. There is yet manifest among them a strong love of truth, despite the deceptions of material civilization; to this we may add a growing respect and esteem for Catholicism, whose orderly hierarchy, unity of faith, purity of morals, and self-sacrificing missionaries it admires. The apostolic spirit newly aroused in English-speaking countries is also a precious pledge of hope, for it foreshadows the irresistible union of all Catholic forces, hitherto widely scattered.

Katholische Missionen, 1896, p. 142; 1903, 87; Compte rendu de la société des missions étrangères, 1905 (Paris, 1906), 23-31; DELAPORTE, La découverte des anciens chrétiens au Japon in Etudes (1897), 577-603; LIGNEUL AND VERRET, L'Evangile au Japon au XXe siècle (Paris, 1904); JOLY, Le Christianisme et l'Extréme-Orient, II: Missions catholiques du Japon (Paris, 1907); BATCHELOR, The Ainu of Japan (New York, 1892).

A. Berlioz.