How a Maryknoll Father Saved Japan by Iosue Andreas
- It was the afternoon of August 15, 1945, and in Tokyo the staff of the newspaper Asahi were in a state of grave uncertainty. A few hours earlier, the emperor, in a message to the nation, had declared the end of the war and had exhorted all to “bear the unbearable”. The “unbearable” was unconditional surrender. The aircraft carrier Missouri was heading toward the bay of Tokyo. The population had to be prepared, to keep them from being overcome by panic. Above all, the fate of the women was a source of concern.
It was urgent to find a personality who would be able to influence the parties in such a way that the occupation would take place in an orderly manner. A journalist, Miyamoto, thought of the Catholic Church. He was not a Christian, but he had heard his daughter, who was a Catholic, talk about the Church of Rome. His colleagues approved the proposal, and Miyamoto, together with the director, went to the cathedral to get suggestions. The pastor spoke to an American priest, Fr Patrick Byrne, of the Maryknoll missionary institute, who was in Kyoto. Because of his goodness and his love for the Japanese, he had not been interned. The archbishop of Tokyo, Peter Doi, who later became a cardinal, added his recommendation.
The following day, the journalist met with the American missionary and asked him: “Father, save the Japanese women and exhort the American soldiers to behave with dignity”. Father Byrne immediately departed for the capital, from which he transmitted the message to the arriving American troops. We possess the text of this, which we admire for its moral force. The reporters for The New York Times and the Christian Science Monitor used interviews with him to present the true face of Japan to America. The occupation took place without any victims.
Click on the link to learn how Fr. Byrne died in North Korea and how he serves as “a constant point of reference” for Fr. Gerald Hammond and his current work in North Korea.