Interesting Japanese Christians! — March 22, 2010 at 12:49 pm

Luis Sotelo

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Luis Sotelo
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Luis Sotelo, discussing with Hasekura Tsunenaga and other Japanese in Rome. Sala Regia, Quirinal Palace, Rome.

Luis Sotelo (September 6, 1574 -1624), was a Franciscan friar who died as a martyr in Japan, in 1624, and was beatified by Pope Pius IX in 1867.
Sotelo was born in Sevilla, Spain, and studied at the University of Salamanca before entering the convent of “Calvario de los Hermanos Menores”. He was sent, in 1600, to the Philippines, in order to take on the spiritual needs of the Japanese settlement of Dilao, until it was destroyed by Spanish forces, in 1608, after intense fighting.
In 1608, Pope Paul V authorized minor religious orders (Dominicans and Franciscans) to proselytize in Japan, heretofore the preserve of the Jesuits. Sotelo immediately went to Japan and took a leading role there.
Sotelo then went to Japan where he tried to establish a Franciscan church in the area of Tokyo. The church was destroyed, in 1612, following the interdiction of Christianity in the territories of the Tokugawa shogunate on April 21, 1612 (the prohibition edicts were a reaction to a bribery scandal between a close collaborator of the Shogun, Okamoto Daihachi, and the Christian daimyo Arima Harunobu).
Sotelo fled to the northern part of Japan, in the area controlled by the daimyo of Sendai, Date Masamune, under whom Christianity was still tolerated. He came back to Tokyo the following year and constructed and inaugurated a new church on May 12, 1613, in the area of Asakusa Torigoe. The Bakufu reacted by arresting the Christians, and Sotelo himself was put in the Kodenma-chō (小伝馬町) prison. Seven fellow Japanese Christians, who had been arrested with Sotelo, were executed on July 1, but Sotelo was freed following a special request by Date Masamune.

San Juan Bautista (“St. John the Baptist”) (originally called Date Maru, 伊達丸 in Japanese) was one of Japan's first Japanese-built Western-style sail warships. She crossed the Pacific in 1614. She was of the Spanish galleon type, known in Japan as Nanban-Sen (南蛮船, lit. “Southern Barbarian ships”). She transported the first leg of a Japanese embassy of 180 people to the Pope, headed by Hasekura Tsunenaga and accompanied by the Spanish friar Luis Sotelo. After transporting Hasekura to the Spanish possessions of Mexico, the ship returned to Japan. Hasekura and the embassy went on to Europe, eventually reaching Rome.

Embassy project
Sotelo planned and accompanied a Japanese embassy sent by Date Masamune to Spain in 1613. The embassy was headed by Hasekura Tsunenaga, and crossed the Pacific on board the Japanese-built galleon San Juan Bautista. He had the Japanese receive baptism in Madrid, before accompanying them to see Pope Paul V in Rome.
The embassy was a product of political ambitions of Sotelo and Date Masamune. Sotelo tried to establish a diocese on Northern Japan that was to be independent from the Jesuits-controlled diocese of Funai (Nagasaki). His campaign was obstructed by the Portuguese and even failed to gain wide support from the Franciscans because it was linked with his personal ambition for the bishop’s post. Date Masamune wanted to trade with Nueva España (Mexico), but it soon became apparent that the trade was too costly.
Sotelo accompanied the Japanese embassy back to the Philippines, in 1618, where he remained for some time, because Christianity was being harshly repressed in Japan. He got into trouble from the Church, because he had oversold his achievements in Japan. However, the Catholic Council of the Indies sent him back to Nueva España, in 1620, to pursue his missionary activities there.
Martyrdom in Japan
Sotelo finally managed to infiltrate Japan, in 1622, on-board a Chinese junk, after which he was discovered and imprisoned. After two years in prison, Luis Sotelo was burnt alive, together with two Franciscans, a Jesuit, and a Dominican, at the age of 50.
He was beatified by Pope Pius IX in 1867.

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