Roman Catholic Missions — February 19, 2010 at 2:24 pm

Otomo Yoshishige

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Ōtomo Yoshishige (大友 義鎮)

Ōtomo Yoshishige (大友 義鎮)

A Portuguese vessel had come to the province of Bungo on the east coast of Kyushu. Xavier requested info on this vessel and the messenger brought back letters from the Portuguese merchants and also from  Otomo Yoshishige, the Lord of Bungo, asking him to come to Funai, his capital. This Daimyo, then only 23 years old, was to have an important place in in the history of the Japanese church. One of the first, perhaps the very first foreign ship to visit Japan had come to Bungo 10 years before, and it is said that his entreaties were what prevented its confiscation by his father. This made the youth very popular with the Portuguese. One of those who came on that ship remained there 3 years and taught many things about Europe. When the young man became Daimyo, the did his best to attract merchants to his ports.It seems probable That the letter which had come to Malacca 2 years before asking for missionaries was from Yoshishige.

Peter Paul Rubens highlights the stories of Xavier’s miracles

Peter Paul Rubens highlights the stories of Xavier’s miracles

Xavier set out for Bungo with Bernard and 3 other Christians. They were enthusiastically welcomed by the Daimyo and Portuguese. Among the latter was the famous Mendez Pinto, who describes many incidents of Xavier there.

It’s here that Xavier accepted the invitation of the Portuguese captain to take passage with him to India.Xavier wanted to find new workers for Japan and to provide many things that were needed by the laborers there. He also wanted to attempt a work in China. he had met many Chinese in Japan and considered them as belonging to a superior race. Moreover, the relations of the 2 countries were as such that he thought the acceptance of Christianity by the Chinese would ensure its victory in japan. The ship sailed from Bungo in November 20, 1551. Xavier had spent 27 months in Japan.

After reaching India, Xavier busied himself over matters connected with the conduct of the Society, selected missionaries to be sent to Japan, and made arrangements for his own journey to China. He reached Chang-chuang, an island, which was at the time the place for trade between the Chinese and the Portuguese. It was his hope that the native merchants might be induced to bring him secretly to the mainland. The Portuguese, who feared that such an attempt might lead the Chinese to withdraw permission for trade, tried to persuade him from this purpose. While trying to surmount the obstacles they put in his way, he was struck down with fever and died November 27, 1552.

We must recognize that Xavier yet lives through the influence that he has exerted upon his own church and to some extend upon others. He did more perhaps than any other man of modern times to arouse the missionary zeal of Roman Catholics. He was indeed far from being a model missionary. He did not exhibit that persistence in one line of effort that is needed to secure the best results. In India, he relied too much on the power of government for advancing the interests of religion. He even desired to have a military expedition sent to aid a person who promised to be a Christian if he were set up as a native ruler. Having obtained authority over the pearl fisheries at Tutocorin, Xavier ordered that certain persons should not be allowed to share in them because they had been disobedient to him that they deserved the name of renegades. He urged the king of Spain to set up the Inquisition in India. Such Facts show that had he remained in Japan he would have doubtless have approved the methods by which after-wards some of the converted daimyos forced their subjects to accept Christianity. All of this, however, is little more than to say that in such matters Xavier was a man of his own age. We must not judge even the progressive men of the past by the standards of today. We cannot expect them to surpass their contemporaries in every particular. If some of Xavier’s methods, such as the speedy baptism of multitudes who knew hardly anything of the real meaning of Christianity, seem to us unwise, we must remember that he was treading unbeaten paths. They that undertake a new work must frequently make mistakes. They cannot profit by the experiences of others. In missionary methods men of the present day ought  to be wiser than those that have gone before them. Whatever may have been Xavier’s faults, he was fitted to be a leader of a man. He was a prisoner who, like Livingstone, opened the way for others. An enthusiast himself, he was able to inspire his followers with enthusiasm. There was in him something that to a wonderful degree called out the love of those who came under his influence, making them willing to work or to suffer with him and for him. Many whose religious views differ greatly from his can sympathize with his earnest devotion to Christ ; Romanists, Protestants, and Eastern Christians alike finding in the hymn which is ascribed to Xavier an expression of their own deepest thoughts :

Fernão Mendes Pinto

Fernão Mendes Pinto

“O God, Thou art the object of my love,

Not for the hopes of endless joys above,

Not for the fear of endless pains below

Which those who love Thee not must undergo.

For me and such as me Thou once didst bear

The ignominious cross, the nails, the spear;

A thorny crown transpierced Thy sacred brow;

What bloody sweats from every member flow!

For me in torture Thou resign’dst Thy breath,

Nailed to the cross, and sav’dst me by Thy death.

Say, can those sufferings fail my heart to move?

What but Thyself can now deserve my love?

Such as then was and is Thy love to me,

Such is, and shall be still, my love to Thee.

Thy love, O Jesus, may I ever sing,

O God of love, kind Parent, dearest King.”

Fernão Mendes Pinto

was a Portuguese explorer and writer. His exploits are known through the posthumous publication of his memoir Pilgrimage (Portuguese: Peregrinação) in 1614, an autobiographical work whose validity is nearly impossible to assess. In the course of his travels in the Middle and Far East, Pinto visited Ethiopia, the Arabian Sea, China (where he claimed to have been a forced laborer on the Great Wall), India and Japan. He claimed to have been among the first group of Europeans to visit Japan and initiate the Nanban trade period. He also claimed to have introduced the gun there in 1543. It is known that he funded the first Christian church in Japan, after befriending a Catholic missionary and founding member of the Society of Jesus later known as St Francis Xavier. At one time Pinto himself was a Jesuit, though he later left the order.

Pilgrimage shows Pinto as sharply critical of Portuguese colonialism in the Far East, recording moral and religious objections to what he perceived to be a hypocritical and greedy enterprise disguised as a religious mission. This view would later become common, but was unusual at the time.[1] The vivid tales of his wanderings over twenty years – he wrote, for example, that he was “thirteen times made captive and seventeen times sold” – were so unusual that they were mostly not believed. They gave rise to the saying “Fernão, Mentes? Minto!”, a Portuguese pun on his name meaning “Fernão, do you lie? Yes, I lie!”[2]

A few years later (1542), Pinto made his first voyage to Japan, accompanied by other Portuguese, supposedly introducing the arquebus, a kind of firearm, to that country.

They landed in Japan in 1542 or 1543 and gained the favor of a feudal lord, to whom they claim to have given the first firearm to have entered Japan, the Portuguese arquebus. The weapon was rapidly reproduced and had a major impact on the ongoing Japanese civil wars. Pinto returned to the coast of China after being released at Ningpo, and made contact with Portuguese merchants who were highly interested in a trade mission to Japan. Their expedition was shipwrecked on the coast of the Ryukyu Islands, however, where they were arrested for piracy but were released because of the compassion of the island’s women.

In 1549 Pinto left the port of Kagoshima but he took with him a Japanese fugitive, Anjiro, and introduced him to Saint Francis Xavier. Xavier joined Pinto’s voyage to Japan, and famously went on to spread Catholicism to that country. In 1551 Pinto met Xavier again, and worked for him during the evangelization period of the region.

In 1554 Pinto decided to return to Portugal with the fortune gained during his voyages, but prior to returning home he underwent conversion to the Society of Jesus and donated a large sum of his wealth to the Society itself, becoming a brother of the Society. Pinto then departed with Xavier as a shipmate when Xavier left his work in Japan to a successor.

Ōtomo Sōrin

Ōtomo Sōrin (大友 宗麟?, 1530-1587), also known as Fujiwara no Yoshishige (藤原 義鎮) and Ōtomo Yoshishige (大友 義鎮), was a Japanese feudal lord (daimyo) of the Ōtomo clan, one of the few to have converted to Christianity. The eldest son of Ōtomo Yoshiaki, he inherited the domain of Funai, on Kyūshū, Japan’s southernmost main island, from his father. He is perhaps most significant for having appealed to Toyotomi Hideyoshi to intervene in Kyūshū against the Shimazu clan, thus spurring Hideyoshi’s Kyūshū Campaign of 1587.

In addition to unifying much of Kyūshū under his control, and securing a significant gain in his clan’s power and prestige therefore, Sōrin is also quite significant as one of the daimyo to meet personally, in 1551, with the Jesuit missionary Francis Xavier, one of the first Europeans in Japan. Though he later formally converted to Christianity, it is likely that Sōrin saw this as a strategic move, politically, and was not religiously motivated towards this position. Referred to as the “King of Bungo” in the Jesuit records, Sōrin sent political delegations to Goa in the 1550s, and the Tenshō embassy to Rome in 1582.

A Japanese breech-loading swivel gun of the 16th century

A Japanese breech-loading swivel gun of the 16th century

A Japanese breech-loading swivel gun of the 16th century, obtained by Ōtomo Sōrin, and nicknamed Kunikuzushi (“Destroyer of Provinces”). This gun is thought to have been founded in Portuguese Goa, India. Caliber: 95 mm, length: 2880 mm.

In addition to fostering relations with the Christians, Yoshishige fought a number of battles over the course of the 1550s, both gaining and consolidating territory. He defeated Kikuchi Yoshimune in 1551, and the warrior monks of Usa five years later; in 1557 he defeated Akizuki Kiyotane and seized Chikuzen Province. In 1561, Ōtomo Sōrin fought in alliance with the Portuguese at the Siege of Moji.[1]

In 1562, Yoshishige adopted the name “Sanbisai Sōrin” upon becoming a Buddhist monk, but remains best known as Ōtomo Sōrin, despite converting to Christianity under the baptismal name Francisco in 1578. He then turned against the Mōri and Shimazu clans, who dominated most of Kyūshū.

The head of the Mōri at that time, Mōri Takamoto, was assisted by the Shōgun Ashikaga Yoshiteru, which led to a peace treaty between the clans. To prove that there would be peace, Sōrin proposed his daughter to be married to Takamoto’s son, Mōri Terumoto. It is not clear, however, if this offer was ever followed through.

Statue of Ōtomo Sōrin in front of Oita Station

Two years later, Sōrin was forced to quell a rebellion of the Akizuki clan of Chikuzen province. The Ōtomo then moved against the Ryūzōji clan of Hizen Province, which prompted the interference of the Mōri. In 1569, Hetsugi Akitsura, a notable vassal of the Ōtomo, was defeated at the battle of Tatarahama, and lost Tachibana Castle. After Sōrin heard of this, he threatened the Mōri foothold in Buzen Province, forcing the Mōri to retreat, and allowing him to retake the castle. By this time, Sōrin was in control of Bungo, most of Buzen, Chikuzen, Chikugo, and had influence over Higo and Hizen. The Ōtomo soon became known as the “Seven-Province Host of the Ōtomo”.

Ōtomo Sōrin sent the Tenshō embassy to Europe in 1582. Here, the Japanese embassy with Pope Gregory XIII on March 23, 1585.[2]

Towards the end of his life, Sōrin came into conflict with the Shimazu family, the only major daimyo family remaining in control of significant portions of Kyūshū. Along with the daimyo of the Ryūzōji clan, he appealed to Toyotomi Hideyoshi to aid in holding back the Shimazu, who were beginning to extend their influence over Ōtomo and Ryūzōji lands. Though at first unsuccessful in enlisting Hideyoshi’s aid, eventually the Shimazu took up arms against the Ōtomo, defeated Sōrin in the Battle of Mimigawa and others, and in 1587, Hideyoshi began his Kyūshū Campaign, in which he overtook the entire island, with the help of the Ōtomo and other families which voluntarily entered his service.

Within roughly a year of his arrival, Hideyoshi left Kyūshū, restoring the Ōtomo to their domains, taken from them by the Shimazu, and arranging a peace, with all three families officially subject to Hideyoshi and holding the domains, now officially Toyotomi lands, in trust. Ōtomo Sōrin died before this campaign was complete, and so it was his son, Ōtomo Yoshimune, who held the ancestral lands upon the defeat of the Shimazu.

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