Pressure from business people and different views of the crisis after the 11 March 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear power plant disaster, caused Japanese Catholic bishops to delay an anti-nuclear message for six months, according to a church official - writes Hisashi Yukimoto.
"Immediately after the earthquake disaster, there was, of course, a voice within the church that we should express our concrete position to abolish nuclear power plants," said Noriko Hiruma, a Japanese Roman Catholic sister of the Mercedarian Missionaries of Berriz who is serving as the secretariat staff of the Japan Catholic Council for Justice and Peace, in an e-mail to ENInews.
"But because there are not a few business people among the believers who are involved in nuclear power plants, because solid information about the danger of radioactivity is too few and uncertain, and because of the difference between eastern and western Japan in their sense of crisis, there was a falling disarray [among the bishops]," she said. "The past half a year was spent [for them] to act
The 8 November message entitled 'Abolish Nuclear Plants Immediately - Facing The Tragedy of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant Disaster' said, "In the  message 'Reverence for Life', we, Japanese bishops could not go so far as to urge the immediate abolishment of nuclear plants.
"However, after facing the tragic nuclear disaster in Fukushima, we regretted and reconsidered such attitude. And now, we would like to call for the immediate abolishment of all the [nuclear] power plants
The official note in Japanese on this sentence said that the 2001 message showed their direction for breaking away from nuclear power plants but they were "in a position to allow" the nuclear power plants to continue to exist.
"But, to be accurate, the 'Reverence for Life' does not allow them, but wishes for an immediate conversion into renewable energy," Hiruma said. "This expression is rather an expression of repentance of having taking such a long time to release the [8 November] message."
Releasing a message of the Japan Catholic Bishops' Conference takes the agreement of all seventeen active members and the bishops' message cannot be made public even with the opinion of any one of them against it, Hiruma noted.
"While the Japanese government and enterprises still place their hopes on exporting their nuclear reactors, the bishops' message is especially significant for Catholic believers who are business people," she said. "So long as the church has released the message, the church will take upon the social risks of such believers, and we needed this much time, perhaps I could say, to be ready for that."
[With acknowledgements to ENInews. ENInews, formerly Ecumenical News International, is jointly sponsored by the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Communion of Reformed Churches and the Conference of European Churches.]