Pope meets with child delegation

Kyodo

Pope Benedict XVI gave an audience Wednesday to a delegation of eight junior high school students sent from the city of Minamishimabara in Nagasaki Prefecture as a commemorative event.

The Minamishimabara Municipal Government sent the delegation to Portugal and Italy for an 11-day trip as a modern version of the 16th century Tensho mission, which saw four Japanese boys sent to Rome by Christian warlords, through Aug. 11

Of the eight students, four are from Minamishimabara and one each from Yokohama, Tokyo, Fukuoka and Nakatsu, Oita Prefecture.

The students, dressed in kimono, met with the pontiff at the community of Castel Gandolfo near Rome.

The pope smiled when Minamishimabara Mayor Yoneyuki Fujiwara told him in English that the delegation came from Nagasaki Prefecture, Minamishimabara officials said.

Minamishimabara is known as the site of the Shimabara rebellion, when Catholic Christians rose up against the Tokugawa shogunate from 1637 to 1638.

The mission is named after the Tensho years, part of the Azuchi-Momoyama Period (1573-1603).

In 1582, Christian warlords Otomo Sorin (1530-1587), Omura Sumitada (1533-1587) and Arima Harunobu (1567-1612) sent the mission to Rome. The members had an audience with Pope Gregorius XIII (1502-1585) before returning to Japan in 1590.