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.