By Catholic News Service
TOKYO (CNS) -- The president of the Japanese bishops' conference strongly condemned the assassination of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, and deplored violence as a means of solving differences of political opinion.
"Violence kills democracy. Violence kills freedom. Violence kills justice," Archbishop Isao Kikuchi of Tokyo said in an interview July 9 with Radio Veritas Asia, ucanews.com reported.
"The differences of political opinion have to be solved through dialogue and voting in freedom. Only dialogue provides a real solution to establishing justice and peace," he said.
"I am deeply saddened and shocked to hear the news of the attack on the former prime minister of Japan, Mr. Shinzo Abe. I feel not only sadness but also indignation as this is a violent challenge to what we believe in this country," said Archbishop Kikuchi, who also is secretary-general of the Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences.
The archbishop's comments came after Japan's longest-serving prime minister was shot July 8 by an ex-Marine with a handmade gun during a campaign rally for local candidates in parliamentary elections in the western city of Nara.
The killing of Abe, 67, shocked Japan and world leaders, and condemnation and condolences poured in from across the globe.
Security officials arrested the assassin immediately but as of July 12 had not yet provided a definitive motive behind the shooting.
Tens of thousands of Japanese paid tribute to their slain leader as they joined a somber funeral for Abe at Zojoji temple in Tokyo July 12.
Archbishop Kikuchi noted that the Catholic Church in Japan and Abe had differences in opinion on various issues but that he had great respect for the church.
"Though we, Catholic bishops of Japan, and the late prime minister had great differences in opinion over several issues, including nuclear disarmament, nuclear energy policy, and the pacifist constitution ... Mr. Abe showed great respect to the Catholic Church, particularly to the Holy See, as he must have understood the influence of the Holy Father on international society over the peace issue," Archbishop Kikuchi said in the interview.
Abe's respect for Pope Francis stemmed from the pontiff's visit to Japan in 2019, he said.
"Mr. Abe and the Holy Father met in Tokyo for a private discussion on several issues, and both agreed to continue to advocate for a world without nuclear weapons, the eradication of poverty, human rights, and the protection of the environment," the archbishop said, noting that both leaders had the same goals, but that their approaches were different.
Abe, a member of the Liberal Democratic Party, was Japan's prime minister from 2006 to 2007 and then from 2012 to 2020, before resigning for health reasons. He was hailed for reviving Japan's economy after decades of stagnation and emboldening Japan's political image by strengthening ties with the West, including the U.S. government.
However, his attempted push for re-militarizing Japan amid escalating tensions with regional neighbors China and North Korea, and his revisionist views on Japan's role during World War II triggered controversy at home and abroad.
Despite such stances, Abe should be duly respected for his contributions to the nation, and the world, Archbishop Kikuchi said, while dismissing violence to muzzle opposition.
"No one has the right to use violence to silence opposition," he said.
"I pray for his eternal rest and blessings to his family members."