In a historical first, the Catholic Church has beatified a Japanese samurai warlord who died in exile after refusing to renounce his Christian faith.
As an official envoy of Pope Francis, Cardinal Angelo Amato presided over the ceremony for Justo Takayama Ukon Tuesday in Osaka, Japan, with some 12,000 people in attendance. As a lead-up to canonization, beatification officially places Takayama on the road to being declared a saint.
Pope Francis had signed a decree on January 21, 2016 clearing the way for Ukon to be beatified as a martyr.
Born in 1552, Ukon was a renowned feudal warlord who protected Christians at a time when authorities attempted to stamp out all vestiges of the religion, exiling missionaries and all Christian samurai who would not abandon their faith.
When Shogun Toyotomi Hideyoshi came to power and outlawed the practice of Christianity by an edict in 1614, Ukon refused to follow the great feudal lords and renounce his faith. As a result, he lost his properties, position, social status and respectability and was eventually forced into exile.
With 300 other Japanese Christians, Ukon fled to Manila where, just 40 days after his arrival, he fell ill and died on February 4, 1615.
Blessed Takayama-sama pray for us