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College of Cardinals

Biographical notes

[Updated: 30.12.2009]


Notice: the biographical notes are only a working instrument for the press, for the exclusive use of accredited journalists.


SHIRAYANAGI Card. Peter Seiichi




Cardinal Peter Seiichi Shirayanagi, Archbishop emeritus of Tokyo, Japan was born on 17 June 1928 in Hachioji City, Tokyo. In March 1945 he graduated from Gyosei (Stella Maris) Junior School as a minor seminarian of the Diocese of Tokyo. In March 1951 he received a philosophy degree from Sophia University, and in March 1954 a specialization in theology from the same institution.

On 21 December 1954 he was ordained a priest at Kanda Catholic Cathedral. In 1960 he earned a doctorate in canon law from the Pontifical Urban University in Rome.

He was ordained titular Bishop of Atenia and Auxiliary of Tokyo on 8 May 1966. On 15 November 1969 he was appointed titular Archbishop of Castro and Coadjutor Archbishop of Tokyo and succeeded to the See on 21 February 1970.

He was the representative of the Religious Juridical Body of the Catholic Archdiocese of Tokyo; representative director of the Juridical Foundation of Tokyo Caritas House and of the Social Welfare Juridical Foundation: Karashidane, Jiseikai, Saint Johhankai, etc.

As Archbishop of Tokyo, on 18 January 1970 he was authorized to continue the Tokyo Archdiocesan Convention begun by Cardinal Doi, to put into practice the spirit and resolutions of the Second Vatican Council. The Convention continued for several months and finished in 1971, after setting up a new archdiocesan system in which the laity and clergy co-operated in applying the directives of Vatican II in the context of the Catholic Church in Tokyo.

Since the 1957 visit of Cardinal Frings, Archbishop of Cologne, a friendship was established between Cologne and Tokyo. Archbishop Shirayangai promoted this friendship and, following the example of the Archdiocese of Cologne, began to help other Churches in Asia with the resources of the Tokyo Archdiocese. In particular, he established 'Myanmar Sunday', an annual occasion for making the Church in Tokyo aware of its duty to help other Churches in Asia, such as those in Myanmar, China, the Philippines, etc.

In 1989, he organized a group of priests, sisters and lay people to visit the Catholic Church in China, in order to meet Chinese Catholics without distinction. There were three objectives: to seek forgiveness for all the sins committed by the Japanese Imperial Army against the Chinese people and the Catholic Church in China; to promote solidarity among all Catholics, both those of the Patriotic Association and those of the so-called Underground, in order to alleviate the sufferings caused by the Church's internal division; and to help rebuild Catholic churches, seminaries and institutes of women religious.

As President of the Japanese Catholic Bishops' Conference from 1983 to 1992, Archbishop Shirayanagi, in response to Pope Paul VI's appeal, founded the first Episcopal Commission for Justice and Peace in 1970. He was also Chairman of the Episcopal Commission for Social Activities, to establish basic policies for the Church's active evangelization, with particular attention to social problems such as refugees, a basic policy for foreign aid and against discriminatory legislation and the Government's policy of nationalizing the Shinto-Yasukuni Shrine; in 1981, Archbishop Shirayanagi organized events connected with the first papal visit to Japan.

In 1982 the Japanese Catholics' Pilgrimage for Peace was organized to promote arms reduction talks at the UN General Assembly. That same year the first Japanese Catholic Peace Week was held, to promote peace education, peace actions and prayer throughout the Japanese Catholic Church every year.

In 1986 the Federation of Asian Catholic Bishops' Conferences held its Fourth General Assembly in Tokyo. As President of the JCBC, Archbishop Shirayanagi acknowledged the war guilt of the Japanese Catholic Church for the first time to the Asian Bishops attending the solemn Mass celebrated at St Mary's Cathedral in Tokyo.

In 1987 Archbishop Shirayanagi, opened the First National Incentive Convention on Evangelization in Kyoto. Seventeen Bishops, representing 16 Dioceses, took part in the three-day discussions aimed at promoting the work of evangelization in contemporary Japanese society.

In 1989 on the occasion of the death of Emperor Hirohito, Archbishop Shirayanagi spoke on behalf of the Japanese Catholic Bishops, asking the Government to observe strictly the separation of State and religion in Japan.

In 1990 Archbishop Shirayanagi took the initiative of building the Japanese Catholic Centre in Tokyo as the official seat of the JCBC and at the same time opened an office in Rome to facilitate communication with the Holy See.

Archbishop emeritus of Tokyo, 12 June 2000.

In November 2000, Pope John Paul II addressed to Cardinal Shirayanagi a message for the celebration of the World Conference of Religions for Peace held in Kyoto 30 years ago.

Created and proclaimed Cardinal by John Paul II in the Consistory of 26 November 1994, of the Title of S. Emerenziana a Tor Fiorenza (St. Emerentiana at Tor Fiorenza).

Cardinal Peter Seiichi Shirayanagi died on 30 December 2009.

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