Pacifist Buddhist priest's honor posthumously restored after 70 years

Gifu, Japan - Priests and followers of a Buddhist sect gathered Friday at a temple in Gifu Prefecture for a meeting to posthumously restore the honor of a priest who denounced war as "sin" in 1937 and was demoted to the lowest rank and stripped of his missionary license. According to some historical documents, Shogen Takenaka (1867-1945), a priest of the Shinshu Otani Buddhist sect, said in 1937, "War is a sin and an enemy of mankind and has to be stopped," while he was seeing off soldiers heading to the Sino-Japanese War.

Takenaka was subsequently convicted of violating the military penal code in 1939 and was also punished by the sect. At Friday's meeting held at the Myosenji temple in Tarui, Gifu Prefecture, Soe Kumagai, head of the sect's external affairs, said, "The punishment in itself was a critical mistake made by the sect. We truly apologize for leaving this issue unattended until today."