Missionary Priest Killed in Japan Quake

Sendai Bishop Unharmed

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SENDAI, Japan, MARCH 14, 2011 (Zenit.org).- A Canadian missionary priest was counted among the 1,800 casualties of Friday's 9.0 magnitude earthquake and resulting tsunami in Japan.

Father Andre Lachapelle of the Quebec Foreign Mission Society died in Sendai, the city closest to the epicenter of the quake that hit 80 miles off the coast of Japan and sent a 33-foot tsunami inland.

Father Peter Shiro Komatsu, chancellor of the Sendai Diocese, noted that the 76-year-old priest suffered a fatal shock from the disaster.

Father Guy Charbonneau, superior general of the mission society, reported that the "intense motion" of the earthquake gave the priest a heart attack as he traveled from the Sendai cathedral back to his parish in Shiogama.

The superior noted that the 10 other missionaries from his society serving in Japan are safe and "working with their own parishioners on spiritual-related" issues.

Father Lachapelle, who is from Saint-Jacques-de-Montcalm, Quebec, has been serving in Japan since 1961.

A friend, Father Florent Vincent, said that the missionary went to that country "to help people to be free, and to have happiness," CTV reported.

"I believe he is in heaven, and he can see us," Father Vincent said. "He can help us from heaven, to inspire us to do good things for people, help people."

Father Lachapelle will be buried in Japan among the people he served.

Father Komatsu also reported that Bishop Martin Tetsuo Hiraga of Sendai was unharmed, but the situation around the diocese is still unknown.