There are 205, beatified by Pope Pius IX on 7 May 1867. They are a mixture of 74 ordained – Augustinian, Dominican, Franciscan and Jesuit (both Foreign and Japanese) Priests and 131 Laity, all but one, Japanese nationals.
In the 1540s, St Francis Xavier brought Christianity to Japan and for a short time, it flourished. However, rulers started to perceive it as a threat from colonists, having watched countries like the Philippines being taken over by the Spanish so, they banned Christianity and persecuted Christians. Before the religion was forced underground, many of its prominent leaders and workers lost their lives.
Imprisonment, torture, beheading, spearing, burning on pyres and crucifixion were among the terrifying punishments handed down. Neither gender nor age was a defence, children as young as 12 were martyred.
These 205 martyrs, who died between 1598-1632, are but a small number of the perhaps thousands who were executed for their Catholic faith.
When religious freedom was re-established in 1873, many thousands of secret Catholics were discovered.
The Feast Day of the Martyrs of Japan is the 10th September.
Martyrs of Japan:
Do not permit that Your Son, Our Lord, remain unknown by unbelievers, but, with the help of Your Saints and the Church, the Bride of Your Son, remember Your mercy, forget their idolatry and infidelity, and make them know Him, Who You have sent, Jesus Christ, Your Son, Our Lord. (Extract from prayer by St Francis Xavier)
Glory be to the…