Friday, July 29, 2011


Bishop Dominic Senyemon Fukahori
at the groundbreaking of the Peace Memorial in Yigo, 1966

The Japanese knew very well that the Chamorros of Guam were very attached to their Catholic faith.  It is for this reason that two Japanese Catholic priests were sent to Guam at the behest of the Japanese Navy, with the task of winning the Guam Chamorros over to Japanese loyalty.  After all, how bad could the Japanese be, if , not only were some Japanese Catholics, but there were Japanese Catholic priests as well?

Of the two priests sent, the more important was Monsignor Dominic Senyemon Fukahori.  He was no ordinary priest.  Earlier in January 1941 he was appointed Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Fukuoka, Japan.  An Apostolic Administrator is a temporary leader of a diocese, when there is no bishop.  Because of impending war, the Japanese government became more nationalistic and turned against foreign missionaries acting as bishops of Japanese dioceses.  Many of the Catholic bishops in Japan were French, as was the bishop of Fukuoka.  He, and many other foreign bishops, resigned.  Fukahori took his place, becoming full-fledge bishop in 1944.

He was accompanied by a Tokyo priest, Father Petero (Peter) Komatsu.

Fukahori was not welcomed at all by Father Duenas, who called him and Komatsu spies for the Japanese.

Fukahori spent only a matter of months on Guam during the war.  He later came back in 1966 to celebrate with Monsignor Oscar L. Calvo, whom he knew during the Japanese Occupation, the groundbreaking of the Peace Memorial in Yigo which Monsignor Calvo spearheaded.

We need to remember that Fukahori faced the possibility of imprisonment or death if he refused to go to Guam.  While on Guam, Fukahori had at least one chapel re-opened by the Japanese, and perhaps did some good.  He filed a report about church conditions on Guam and sent it to the Vatican authorities.

One telling anecdote my mañaina told me about him was, whenever he would speak to the people about the war or about the government, he would take off his cross from around his neck and lay it on the altar.  After the talk, he'd put it back on.  The Chamorro Catholics did not need any other sign to understand that Fukahori was telling them, in so many words, "I am about to speak, but not as a representative of the Church."

Father Komatsu did stay on Guam for the duration of the Japanese Occupation, right up to the American Liberation.  He avoided as much involvement in civic affairs as possible, except that he wrote a letter to Tweed to give himself up, as many Chamorros were getting in trouble with the Japanese on his account.

I knew a woman from a family Father Komatsu befriended, calling the matriarch of the house "mother," in English, a language Komatsu knew.  According to her, Komatsu didn't talk war-time politics, telling the family, "We are in a time of war."  Even when asked by a Chamorro, "I guess we're all going to be Japanese now," Komatsu said, "The sky is so big."  These enigmatic comments showed that Komatsu may have been alluding to the impermanence of political situations, such as the war.

Komatsu was captured by the Americans at the re-capture of Guam and sent back to Japan.  Monsignor Calvo visited both Msgr. Fukahori and Fr. Komatsu on a trip to Japan many years later.

En Español

Durante la ocupación japonesa en Guam, las autoridades japonesas enviaron dos sacerdotes japoneses a Guam para mostrar una cara católica y japonesa a los chamorros de Guam, en su mayoría católicos fervientes.

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