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By Fr. Gaetano Compri, SDB


Tokyo, Japan, 28 December 2016 -- In these days is released the ‘Silence’, another masterpiece of world-wide famous movie director Martin Scorsese. Almost 3 hours long movie is based on the 1966 novel Silence (沈黙 - Chinmoku), a historical fiction written by Japanese Catholic author Endo Shūsaku. This story of a Jesuit missionary sent to 17th century Japan, who endures persecution in the time of Kakure Kirishitan (Hidden Christians) has been called Endo’s supreme achievement and one of the twentieth century’s finest novels.


What makes the link between this movie and Don Bosco Salesians in Japan? It’s a passion for the Japan Catholic history of first generation Salesian missionaries like Fr. Clodoveo Tassinari, who authored books and dramas based on the persecution time stories. The lead character in the Silence novel is Fr Sebastião Rodrigues, but his real historical name is Fr Giuseppe Chiara, Sicily – Palermo born Jesuit missionary (1603-1685). He was the historical basis for the lead character of in the novel Silence by Shūsaku Endō.


Fr Chiara reached Japan in 1643, but soon after his landing was captured near Nagasaki. Like his mentor – Japan Jesuit provincial Fr. Ferriera - he didn’t resist the horrible tortures, renounced his faith and after 40 years died with a Budhist name in Tokyo. His tomb stone was discovered in 1943 by Fr. Tassinari and is now located in the compound of Tokyo, Chofu Salesian Seminary, declared by Chofu City authority as local historical heritage.


Although majority of the early missionaries in Japan were Portuguese and Spanish, we find also 20 Italians amongst them, eight of them were declared Blessed Martyrs. Only one of them, Fr Giovanni Battista Sidotti arrived in 1708 after Fr. Chiara and became a martyr in 1714, declared Blessed in 1867.


So the humble tomb stone of Fr. Chiara in Chofu reminds all of us not only about the ‘Silence’ novel and movie story, but most of all about the life witness of early Japanese faithful and martyrs who showed the value of the Gospel and Faith.


Trailer of the SILENCE movie:




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  • vaclav 2017.02.16 09:04

    New York Times (Feb 15,2017)

    "I’ve managed to see Scorsese’s Silence twice in the last couple of weeks. It literally silenced me. It’s a surpassingly beautiful movie — but its genius lies in the complexity of its understanding of what faith really is. For some secular liberals, faith is some kind of easy, simple abdication of reason — a liberation from reality. For Scorsese, it’s a riddle wrapped in a mystery, and often inseparable from crippling, perpetual doubt. You see this in the main protagonist’s evolution: from a certain, absolutist arrogance to a long sacrifice of pride toward a deeper spiritual truth. Faith is a result, in the end, of living, of seeing your previous certainties crumble and be rebuilt, shakily, on new grounds. God is almost always silent, hidden, and sometimes most painfully so in the face of hideous injustice or suffering. A life of faith is therefore not real unless it is riddled with despair.

    There are moments — surpassingly rare but often indelible — when you do hear the voice of God and see the face of Jesus. You never forget them — and I count those few moments in my life when I have heard the voice and seen the face as mere intimations of what is to come. But the rest is indeed silence. And the conscience is something that cannot sometimes hear itself. I’ve rarely seen the depth of this truth more beautifully unpacked. Which is why, perhaps, the movie has had such a tiny audience so far. Those without faith have no patience for a long meditation on it; those with faith in our time are filled too often with a passionate certainty to appreciate it. And this movie’s mysterious imagery can confound anyone. But its very complexity and subtlety gave me hope in this vulgar, extremist time. We cannot avoid this surreality all around us. But it may be possible occasionally to transcend it."


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