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The Japanese bishops' conference sent a letter of protest to the government after police entered a Catholic church without notice or warrant to arrest a Filipino layman for not carrying a passport.
According to L’Osservatore Romano, the July 2 letter – sent to the president of the National Public Safety Commission, Jin Matsubara – argues that police violated religious freedom rights.
The bishops expressed outrage over the actions of six or seven officers who entered a church in the Diocese of Yokohama on May 27, the Solemnity of Pentecost.
UCAnews reported that police arrested a Filipino man who had overstayed his visa in Japan.
Church pastor Father Takashi Motoyanagi said police had no right to enter the property without a warrant or advanced notice. Witnesses also said the tactics they used during the arrest were excessive.
The bishops' letter – delivered to government officials by conference president Archbishop Leo Jun Ikenaga – called for the police not to interfere in Church activities, illegally enter Church grounds and to refrain from conducting investigations against those visiting churches or near church grounds.
Matsubara said the commission has not decided yet how to respond to the ordeal. “I think the action violated common sense,” he said. “We will ensure that there is no repeat of such an incident.”
On June 5, Bishop Rafael Masahiro Umemura of Yokohama sent a message to police chief in Kawasaki expressing surprise and concern over the actions of the police officers.
Without an order from the court, he said, these actions go against the exercise of religious freedom and represent a threat to society.
The unanimous decision of the Japanese bishops to send the letter of protest to the government came during their annual meeting June 19-22.
Japan’s population of 127 million includes some 500,000 Catholics.