Rev. Hideo Yamaguchi, the head of Dai-Roma Mission Station, together with some Italian Yoboku, attended an international conference commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council’s document “Nostra Aetate,” the Declaration on the Relation of the Church with Non-Christian Religions. The conference was held at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, Italy, from October 26 to 28. About 150 participants representing many of the world’s religions attended the conference to reaffirm the significance of the 1965 declaration on the Catholic Church’s relationship to Non-Christian Religions.
The Second Vatican Council, convoked by Pope John XXIII, comprised a series of meetings held from 1962 to 1965, and concludeded by Pope Paul VI. Convened for the first time in about 100 years, the Vatican Council adopted many changes, one of which was the Catholic Church’s efforts to engage in dialogue with other religions. The council is considered as a historic event because the decisions and changes helped set the future direction of the Catholic Church in modern times.
In 1968, as a part of the project commemorating the 50th anniversary of Tenrikyo Young Men’s Association, Rev. Yamaguchi was sent to Italy to study. Together with his wife, Satoko, he has been steadily carrying out missionary activities in Italy for almost 50 years.
In 1986, when Pope John Paul II called for the World Day of Prayer for Peace to be held for the first time and invited world religious leaders to Assisi, Italy, Father John Bosco Masayuki Shirieda extended an invitation to Rev. Yamaguchi, with whom the father had a close friendship. Rev. Yamaguchi and six other followers in Italy participated in the interreligious meeting. The Tenrikyo participants performed the practice service dance in prayer for the realization of the Joyous Life World.
The World Day of Prayer for Peace was followed in 1987 by the International Meeting of Prayer for Peace. The meeting has since been held annually under the leadership of the Community of Sant’Egidio, and Tenrikyo has been receiving invitations to attend the meeting for the purpose of engaging in interreligious dialogue and praying for world peace. The Shinbashira and his wife attended the meeting for the first time when it was held in Krakow, Poland. Every time there is an interreligious gathering or event sponsored by the Vatican, Rev. Yamaguchi acts as a contact person for Tenrikyo in Italy and takes charge of making arrangements, thereby playing a role of connecting and mediating between Tenrikyo and the Vatican.
On the morning of October 28, the final day of the conference, an interreligious general audience with Pope Francis took place in St. Peter’s Square. Speaking to representatives of various religions, Pope Francis emphasized that the message of “Nostra Aetate” continues to be valid and relevant today. He then recalled some of the important points of the declaration. Having an audience with Pope Francis at St. Peter’s Square, Rev. Yamaguchi shook hands with him and told him in Italian that Tenrikyo has been participating in the Interreligious Meeting of Prayer for Peace since the first meeting in Assisi and that he has been carrying out missionary activities with a mission base in Rome. The Pope responded by expressing his appreciation for Tenrikyo’s contributions pertaining to the interreligious gathering and his wish to join efforts in realizing world peace through dialogue.
After the conference ended, Rev. Yamaguchi said: “Representing Tenrikyo, I have participated in many conferences and meetings for interreligious dialogue over the course of thirty years. Nowadays, Tenrikyo’s various activities are mentioned more frequently at international conferences. In today’s world where interreligious conflicts and tensions constantly occur, I have a firm conviction that engaging in dialogue with other religions is an indispensable element in achieving the world peace. Besides sprinkling the fragrance of the teachings and helping save others here in Italy, I would like to continue serving as a bridge for communication with other religions.”