By LARISSA I. LOPEZ

At the end of Pope Francis’ visit to the University of Sophia, the University’s President and the President of the Catholic Students Association gave the Pontiff an image of Kannon, the Buddhist goddess of Mercy.

On November 26, 2019, the last day of the Holy Father’s visit to Japan, he went to the Jesuit University of Sophia and gave an address to the whole educational community.

The Sculpture

Before the end of the meeting, an Argentine Jesuit, representing the University, explained to the Pope, in Spanish, that the sculpture originally represented Kannon, the Buddhist goddess of Mercy.

Given her similarity to a statue of the Virgin Mary, during the persecution, Nagasaki’s Christians used it to pray without being discovered.

The smoke of candles and, perhaps, the incense Christians offered while praying, have blackened this figure. The statue includes a child in arms, something not that common in this type of sculpture, which makes it even more like a sculpture of the Virgin and Child.

Missionary in Japan

The sculpture came probably from the south of China. Then it went to Japan and when Christianity was banned, it stayed in the hands of Nagasaki’s Christians. “We want to give it to you because we know, that when you were younger, you asked to come as a missionary to Japan and so that, uniting your heart with that of the martyrs, you won’t forget to pray for all of us,” said the Argentine Jesuit priest.

The Pope’s Gift to the University

For his part, the Holy Father gave the University of Sophia a representation of the Virgin in solid silver, made in 1989 with the lost wax casting technique.

It is a bas-relief of Maestro Marino Mandelesi, inspired directly in the painting of Mary’s Immaculate Conception by Escipion Pulzone in 1582, for the Chapel of the same name in the city of Gaeta, Italy.

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