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Vatican moves fierce sixteenth-century samurai closer to sainthood

Catholic Church beatifies its first Japanese warlord; 12,000 attend the ceremony in Osaka

Vatican moves fierce sixteenth-century samurai closer to sainthood

A Japanese Christian samurai who died in exile about 400 years ago after refusing to renounce his faith was beatified by the Catholic Church in an elaborate mass on Tuesday.

About 12,000 people attended the ceremony for Takayama Ukon in Osaka which was conducted by Cardinal Angelo Amato, representing Pope Francis, and is a step on the path to possible sainthood.

Christianity came to Japan in 1549, introduced by Jesuit missionary Francis Xavier and for decades the faith made dramatic inroads before coming under official persecution in the late 16th and 17th centuries that forced it underground.

Takayama, born in 1552, was a renowned feudal warlord who protected Christians at a time when authorities attempted to stamp out all vestiges of the religion.

He died in Manila in 1615 in exile after refusing to renounce the faith as demanded by the shogun, or military ruler of Japan, who viewed Christianity as a threat to national security and independence as Western colonialism made inroads in Asia.

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