Japanese Christian samurai who died in the Philippines beatified as martyr

A Japanese samurai, who died while exiled in the Philippines 400 years ago for standing up for his Christian faith, was beatified as a martyr by the Catholic Church on Tuesday.

(WIKIMEDIA COMMONS / デジタルカメラ)Statue of Takayama Ukon in Shiroato Park. 2007.

In a mass attended by 12,000 people and conducted by Cardinal Angelo Amato on behalf of Pope Francis, the Catholic Church beatified Japanese samurai Takayama Ukon in Osaka as a Christian martyr. The ceremony paves the way for the feudal warlord's possible sainthood, the Inquirer details.

Ukon, who was born just a few years after Christianity came to Japan, protected Christians when authorities outlawed their faith because it was considered as a threat to national security. He was exiled in Manila, Philippines for refusing to cave in to the shogun's order to renounce his Christian faith, and died there in 1615.

During the ceremony, Cardinal Amato read an Apostolic Letter from the pope which proclaimed Ukon as "Blessed." He also lauded the Japanese samurai who chose to stand for his faith rather than cling to worldly success.

The Catholic Bishops' Conference of Japan filed an application for Ukon's beatification as a Christian martyr because he had chosen to reject his warlord status and instead risked his life for his faith. Pope Francis gave the go signal for the recognition in January 2016, Japan Times reports.

In order for a person to be approved for beatification, the occurrence of a miracle or an act of martyrdom is required, the publication notes.

Aside from Ukon, the Church has also proclaimed 393 other Japanese figures as "Blessed." There are also 42 others who have been pronounced as saints.

Ukon's beatification comes as the release of Martin Scorsese's persecution movie "Silence" has once again shone the spotlight on the history of Christianity in Japan. The film, an adaptation of Shusaku Endo's 1966 novel of the same title, tells the story of Jesuit missionaries who were tortured and persecuted in Japan because of their faith.