Petro Kassui Kibe

Petro Kassui Kibe

Petro Kasui Kibe (1587 - July 4 1639) was a Japanese Christian during 17th century and a Jesuit priest. Before reaching Rome, he became the first Japanese to visit Jerusalem. After he came back to Japan, he was martyred. He saw the largest part of the world in medieval Japanese. He is called "Japanese Marco Polo" or "A Christian walking thru the world".


For Rome

In 1568, Petro Kibe was born in Kibe, Kunisaki in Bungo (At present, Kibe Kunimi-town Kunisaki-city Ōita Prefecture), Japan. His parents were both Christians. He started to learn at a seminaryo, a theological school, at age of 13. In 1606, he aspired to be a Jesuit and began to tell his name "Kasui". It is not known why he named himself "Kasui". Since then his name had been described "Petro Kasui Kibe" in Jesuit documents.

In 1614, he was exiled to Macau due to a deportation order of Christians. He learned Latin and theology at a theological school in Macau. However, he and other Japanese knew it would be hard to be priests because of nationality discrimination, so they left the school to go to Rome.

He went to Malacca and Goa in India by ship, and then Kibe left for Europe on foot via Persia. Via Hormuz and Baghdad, he finally became the first Japanese Christian to arrive at Jerusalem. It took three years to arrive at Rome beyond the Mediterranean Sea after a difficult journey.

From Macau, a letter telling "Japanese who left Macau would go to Rome, but don't talk to them." was sent to Rome. However in Rome, Jesuits examined Kibe and found out he had enough knowledge and was suited for a priest. On November 15, 1620, he became a Jesuit priest at age of 32 at the Basilica of St. John Lateran.

Afterward, he was trained at Jesuit training school for two years in Rome, and then he swore as a Jesuit priest in Lisbon. In 1623, he departed for India with twenty Jesuits. Next year, he arrived at Goa via Cape of Good Hope.

Return Home

Father Kibe had a strong decision of returning to Japan with taking the risk of being a martyr though Japan oppressed Christians and Christian priests' entry to Japan was forbidden. He had a very hard time of finding a ship which allowed the Christian priest to board. He traveled around Southeast Asia, and then finally he succeeded to get on a ship from Manila to Japan in 1630. The ship wrecked, but reached Kagoshima in southern Japan. He returned to Japan sixteen years after he left home.

Father Kibe hid himself and escaped from severe oppression and exposure. He went to northeast Japan via Nagasaki and encouraged Christians. In 1639, he was found out when he hid himself at home of a Christian and was arrested. He was sent to Edo (Tokyo at present). He met Christovao Ferreira who had already rejected his faith of Christianity, but Kibe strongly recommended Ferreira to return to the faith. Father Kibe was tortured severely, but he never rejected his faith. He even encouraged two other Christians in the "torture hole" who were also being tortured to death. As a result, the infuriated guards pulled him out of the hole and ran him through with a spear. He looked at the world and lived a stormy life.

In Kibe Kunimi-town Kunisaki-city Oita prefecture, there is Father Kibe Memorial Park which was founded by Father Sekki. Kibe's statute which is made by Yasutake Funakoshi stands at the park. On May 7th, 2006, Roman Curio Congregation for the Causes of Saints decided Father Kibe and other 187 Japanese Christians who martyred should be celebrated. It means an informal decision of canonization; therefore he will be canonized in the future.

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