Petro Kasui Kibe

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Petro Kasui Kibe (1587 – July 4, 1639) was a Japanese Christian and a Jesuit priest during the 17th century. Before reaching Rome, he became the first Japanese to visit Jerusalem. After he came back to Japan, he was martyred. He saw the largest part of the world in medieval Japan. He is called the "Japanese Marco Polo" or "a Christian walking through the world".

Early life[edit]

In 1587, Petro Kibe was born in Kibe, Kunisaki in Bungo (at present, Kibe Kunimi-town Kunisaki-city Ōita Prefecture), Japan. His parents were both Christians. He started to study at a seminary, a theological school, at age of 13. In 1606, he aspired to be a Jesuit and began to tell his name "Kasui". It is not known why he named himself "Kasui". Since then his name had been described "Petro Kasui Kibe" in Jesuit documents.

In 1614, he was exiled to Portuguese Macau due to a deportation order of Christians. He learned Latin and theology at a theological school in Macau. However, he and other Japanese knew it would be hard to be priests because of nationality discrimination, so they left the school to go to Rome.

He went to Portuguese Malacca and Goa in Portuguese India by ship, and then left for Europe on foot via Persia, the Strait of Hormuz and Baghdad, finally becoming the first Japanese Christian to arrive in Jerusalem. After a difficult journey that lasted three years he arrived in Rome after sailing through the Mediterranean Sea.

From Macau, a letter telling "Japanese who left Macau would go to Rome, but don't talk to them." was sent to Rome. However, in Rome, Jesuits examined Kibe and found out he had enough knowledge and was suited for a priest. On November 15, 1620, he became a Jesuit priest at age of 32 at the Basilica of St. John Lateran.

Afterward, he was trained for two years at a Jesuit training school in Rome, and took his vows as a Jesuit priest in Lisbon. In 1623, he departed for India with twenty Jesuits. Next year, he arrived at Goa via Cape of Good Hope.

Return to Japan[edit]

Father Kibe had a hard decision to return to Japan due to the risk of being a martyr as Japan oppressed Christians and Christian priests' entry to Japan was forbidden. He had a very hard time finding a ship which would allow him to board. He traveled around Southeast Asia, and then finally he succeeded in boarding a ship from Manila to Japan in 1630. The ship wrecked but reached Kagoshima in southern Japan. He returned to Japan sixteen years after he left home.

Father Kibe hid himself and escaped from severe oppression and exposure. He went to northeast Japan via Nagasaki and encouraged Christians. In 1639, he was caught when he was hiding at the home of a Christian and was arrested. He was sent to Edo (Tokyo at present). He met Cristóvão Ferreira who had already rejected his faith of Christianity, but Kibe strongly recommended Ferreira to return to the faith. Father Kibe was tortured severely, but he never rejected his faith. He even encouraged two other Christians in the "torture hole" who were also being tortured to death. As a result, the infuriated guards pulled him out of the hole and ran him through with a spear.

In Kibe Kunimi-town Kunisaki-city Oita prefecture, there is the Father Kibe Memorial Park which was founded by Father Sekki. Kibe's statue which is made by Yasutake Funakoshi stands at the park. On May 7, 2006, the Roman Curia Congregation for the Causes of Saints decided Father Kibe and other 187 Japanese Christians who were martyred should be declared blessed.

The beatification of Peter Kibe and 187 other martyrs took place on November 24, 2008 in Nagasaki. For the liturgical celebration in Nagasaki Stadium more than 30,000 participants attended.