Japan

[map of Japan] Empire including a large group of islands near the eastern coast of Asia, together with the peninsula Korea. The first Christian missionaries who arrived in 1549, were Saint Francis Xavier, two other Jesuits, and three Japanese who had become Christians in India. After 27 months, when Saint Francis left for China, 3000 Japanese had been baptized. With the aid of some nobles of the feudal regime, the work of missionaries continued to flourish, so that in 1582 there were 250 churches numbering 200,000 Christians. Soon the movement was suspected for fear that it might be preparing the way for conquest of Japan by European countries. Christianity was proscribed, and in 1597 six missionaries and twenty converts were crucified. At this time there were about 300,000 Christians; the missionaries were Jesuits, secular priests, Franciscans, Dominicans, and Augustinians. Persecution continued intermittently, becoming very severe at times. For two centuries all Christians were forbidden to come into the country, and missionaries who tried to enter were tortured, put to death or imprisoned. The Japanese were required annually to trample the Cross under foot. Many kept their faith and gave it secretly to their children, so that about 50,000 Christians were discovered when the new missionaries were allowed to come. In the meantime Christianity had been introduced from China into Korea, which belonged to the Diocese of Peking until 1831. In that year the independent Vicariate Apostolic of Korea was created, and the Faith continued to spread in spite of proscription and persecution in which many suffered martyrdom. In 1859, a treaty between Japan and France permitted missionaries to have churches at open ports for foreigners, and gradually their old work was resumed there, although persecution continued and thousands who would not apostatize were exiled. Religious liberty was finally recognized in theory by the constitution of the Empire promulgated in 1889. In Korea various treaties had allowed privileges to missionaries (c.1884), and the church was gradually organized.

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