Pope Francis called the attention of church leaders in Japan over the increasing rates of suicide and bullying of young people in Japanese cities.
He said these realities, and the “various kinds of neediness” among the youth, are “creating new forms of alienation and spiritual disorientation.”
The pope addressed the Catholic bishops of Japan upon his arrival in Tokyo on Nov. 23 after a five-hour flight from Bangkok.
Reading a prepared speech, the pontiff told Japanese bishops that the lives of the country’s young people need special care and protection.
“All of us are aware of the grave problems affecting people in your communities whose lives are marked, for various reasons, by loneliness, despair, and isolation,” he said.
Last month, a research done by the Ministry of Education of Japan revealed that incidents of bullying in elementary in high schools in Japan last year were as high as 414,378.
The figure was higher by 91,000 cases compared to the previous year.
At least 474 cases were determined to be “serious” while 55 were classified as involving “life-threatening harm.”
Of the 250 pupils who committed suicide during the last school year, authorities were able to rule that 10 children had been bullied at school.
Pope Francis said that in a culture so often focused on “efficiency, performance and success,” there is a need to foster “a culture of generous and selfless love.”
He said this kind of culture should be “capable of offering to everyone, and not only to those who have ‘made it,’ the possibility of a happy and successful life.”
“Since these affect the young in particular, I ask you to pay special attention to them and their needs,” he told the bishops.
He said that young people can be “a deep source of hope to their contemporaries and bear vital witness to Christian charity” if their “zeal, ideas, and energy” are “well-formed and accompanied.”
“A creative, inculturated, and imaginative quest to live the Gospel message can have a powerful effect on so many lives thirsting for compassion,” said the pontiff.
Pope Francis’ trip to Japan aims to bring an anti-nuclear message to the country that has suffered atomic bombing in 1945, ending World War II.
“I wish to meet those who still bear the wounds of this tragic episode in human history,” the pope told the bishops.
Aside from the estimated 100,000 people who were killed during the bombings of the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, tens of thousands of others died illnesses related to radiation.
Pope Francis told the bishops he would “echo your own prophetic calls for nuclear disarmament.”
He said the continued sufferings of the victims of the bombings “are an eloquent reminder of our human and Christian duty to assist those who are troubled in body and spirit and to offer to all the Gospel message of hope, healing, and reconciliation.”
“Evil has no preferences,” he said. “It does not care about people’s background or identity. It simply bursts in with its destructive force.”
Pope Francis visit to Japan is the first by a pontiff in 38 years and only the second in history.