The Heroicity of Virtue of Satoko Kitahara

A young aristocrat Satoko Kitahara and her co-worker with with Br Zeno at chapel of City of the AntsOn Tuesday, January 13, 2015, the Ordinary Assembly of Cardinals and Bishops of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints voted favorably to approve the heroicity of virtue of the Servant of God, Elizabeth Mary Satoko Kitahara.

Satoko Kitahara was born into a Shintoist family on August 22, 1929, in Tokyo. Raised in pre-war Japan, she began university studies after the war ended, amidst a rapidly evolving society. 

She initially bumped into Christianity by chance, but afterwards, was greatly influenced by various consecrated people. After attending catechism classes, she was baptized at the age of 20 and received the name of Elizabeth and, at Confirmation, Mary. She came under the influence of Friar Zeno ┼╗ebrowski who had come to Japan with St. Maximilian Kolbe and, after the war, committed himself to caring for destitute survivors.  Like him, Elizabeth Mary also devoted her life to those in need, in particular, the children of the rag-pickers living in the “Village of Ants” (Arinomachi). She settled among them and gave herself, without reserve, to the same life of privation.  Considerably weakened by tuberculosis, she devoted the remaining days of her life to seeing that the village was rebuilt in a better and healthier environment. She died at the age of 28 years and 5 months, on January 23, 1958.

Elizabeth’s story has moved many generations of Christians in Japan and around the world. It shows the depth of her conversion, which led her to share the life of the least in her society. Her story has been told in a Japanese musical which was broadcast all over the world.

With the consent given by the Special Congress of the Theologian Consultors last June 1, and today’s approval by the Cardinals and Bishops, Pope Francis’ approval is all that remains for Elizabeth to be declared “venerable.” Following an eventual miracle to be obtained through her intercession, she would be declared blessed.  Elizabeth Mary Satoko Kitahara is the first Japanese Servant of God who is recognized by her heroic virtues.  All others declared up to now, blessed or saints, have been recognized as martyrs.

Friar Angelo Paleri, Postulator General

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