Pope Francis Thanks Japan in Address to University Students

Society Lifestyle

Tokyo, Nov. 26 (Jiji Press)--Pope Francis expressed his gratitude to Japan in a speech he delivered at Sophia University in Tokyo on Tuesday, the final day of his first visit to Japan.

"My stay in Japan was short, but very dense and fulfilling," the pope said of his four-day trip to the nation. "I thank...everyone in Japan who had given me the most welcome and hospitality," he said. "I will always remember you in my prayer."

The pope noted that Jesuit missionary Francis Xavier, who was one of the founders of the Society of Jesus and spread Christianity in Japan in the 16th century, was influenced by the country, and that many Japanese Christian martyrs upheld their faith through times of suppression.

Pope Francis called on students to preserve academic autonomy and freedom, and said, "In a given situation, however complex it might be, one should be fair, humanistic, an exemplar and responsible in one's behavior, in good faith, always protecting the weak."

After the speech, Sophia University third-grader Ryusuke Suzuki, 21, and others presented Pope Francis with a statue of Mary that is believed to have been treasured by hidden Christians in Nagasaki Prefecture, southwestern Japan, or in the Amakusa region in neighboring Kumamoto Prefecture at a time when Christianity was banned in Japan. The statue had been kept at the university.

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