Pope Francis visits Sophia University in Tokyo Pope Francis visits Sophia University in Tokyo 

Social media takes on personal face as Pope visits Sophia University

As Pope Francis concludes his Apostolic Journey to Japan, students and staff at Sophia University wonder at how they came to greet him in person.

By Devin Watkins – Tokyo, Japan

From a Skype call to a face-to-face encounter.

That could almost be a paradigm for Pope Francis’ constant appeal for social media exchanges to bear fruit in personal interactions.

But it’s not just pie-in-the-sky for the Holy Father.

He turned words into action when he met with students at Sophia University in Tokyo on Tuesday.

Great rapport

The Pope held an hour-long Skype call with the university’s students in December 2017.

Father John Joseph Puthenkalam, SJ, professor of Economics and Global Environmental Studies, told Vatican Radio that this has created “a very great rapport between our students and Pope Francis.”

So Sophia students eagerly looked forward to their personal encounter with him.

Time to revive faith

Sophia University, Fr Joseph said, is a Catholic university with a Jesuit tradition.

The Pope’s visit was a time for Catholic-minority students to “revive their own faith and for other non-Christians to think about what Christianity is”, as well as what Catholicism and Jesuit education represents for them.

“He awoke that sort of questions within them,” said Fr. Joseph.

Mission in non-Christian society

Around 95% of students at Sophia University are Japanese, and most are not Catholic.

The remaining 5% are from other countries and are mostly Catholic.

It is precisely because of the prevalence of non-Christians that Jesuits carry out their evangelizing mission through university-level teaching, Fr. Joseph said.

“This is the mission of the Church here, and it is a very visible mission. And people appreciate Sophia University.”

Listen to the full interview

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26 November 2019, 01:36