Suicide Rate in Japan Jumps 7.1%

"Symptoms of Malaise of a Whole Society," Says Vatican Dicastery

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TOKYO, JULY 30, 2004 (Zenit.org).- The Church lamented the "alarming statistics" that show a sizable increase in the number of suicides in Japan last year.



Japanese police reported that 34,427 people took their lives last year, 7.1% more than in 2002, the Vatican agency Fides noted.

Among minors, the suicide rate soared by 57.6%. In the majority, they are students -- 83 secondary school youths and 10 elementary school pupils.

Suicides also rose noticeably among those ages 40 to 50 -- people who lost their jobs or suffered bankruptcy during the recession.

Health problems (44.1%), financial problems (25.8%) and family difficulties (8.5%) are mentioned among the principal causes of suicides.

"In the alarming statistics of suicides," commented the Vatican Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, "are the symptoms of the malaise of a whole society, invaded by a view of the world which sees the value of man diminishing in technology and material wealth."

The local Church is trying to foster the growth of community groups and volunteer work, in an effort to counter the widespread feelings of complacency and indifference.

After a year of evangelization and of baptizing 83 people last Easter Vigil, Father Haresaku Masahide, a parish priest in Tokyo, said: "Today, people are looking for something to believe in, and in the Church they find the treasure of the truth and the faith. It is the Word of Jesus that converts hearts."

"I think that in Japan, Catholics can have an ever more luminous future. I hope the number of the baptized will grow every year," he said.

Among Japan's 127 million people, 53% are Shintoist, 41% Buddhist, 5% Confucian, and 1% Christian.