Buddhism teaching

Japanese government recognizes pope as ’emperor of education’

Just days before Pope Francis arrives in Japan, the country’s government recognizes the Japanese characters that the Catholic Church has used for the pope for more than 40 years.

By Devin Watkins – Tokyo, Japan

“Pope Francis has something to teach.”

This is how Thomas Power, an associate professor at Meiji University in Tokyo, interprets a recent decision taken by the Japanese government.

Earlier this week, the government announced that it would recognize the pope with the Japanese characters 教皇, transliterated as Kyō-kōrather than 法王, pronounced Hōō.

What is the difference?

Mr. Power told Vatican Radio that Kyō-ō means something like “Emperor of the Teaching or Doctrine”.

The Catholic Church in Japan has used these characters for over 40 years to identify the bishop of Rome.

The previous Hōō is similar to the term used for the highest official in Buddhism and means “emperor of law”.

“A Japanese Catholic friend of mine,” says Mr. Power, “said when announcing [on TV] He had tears in his eyes.

The Meiji University School of Political Science and Economics professor thinks his friend became emotional because “it was a recognition of the Catholic Church.”

Catholics represent only 0.42% of the Japanese population.

Teach through love

Mr Power said many people had been touched by Pope Francis’ recent video message to the country, adding that they seemed open to hearing his teaching.

“He was not just speaking to Catholics but to the Japanese people. And the way he was – I guess you could say – ‘teaching’ was a very loving care to the Japanese people,” Mr Power said. “It was very personal. They were touched to the heart.

Listen to the full interview