On February 5, 1597, twenty-six Catholics – four Spaniards, one Mexican, one Indian, all Franciscan missionaries, three Japanese Jesuits and seventeen Japanese laymen including three young boys, who were all members of the Third Order of Saint Francis, were executed by crucifixion in Nagasaki on the orders of Japanese warlord and ruler Hideyoshi Toyotomi.
These individuals were raised on crosses and then pierced through with spears. While there were many more martyrs, the first 26 missionary and convert martyrs came to be especially revered, the most celebrated of whom was Paul Miki. The Martyrs of Japan were canonized by the Roman Catholic Church on June 8, 1862, by Pope Pius IX, and are listed on the calendar as Sts. Paul Miki and his Companions, commemorated on February 6.
Among the martyrs was Saint Pierbattista, a Spaniard (Pedro Bautista), born in 1542. As a Franciscan, he served as a missionary in Mexico in 1581 and then worked in the Philippines from 1584. Serving as parish priest and as music teacher, he was appointed Custos, head of the Franciscans in the Philippines in 1587. He was sent as Filipino ambassador to Japan in 1593. He was martyred with the others in 1597.
On this day, we pray especially for our Archbishop Pierbattista, Apostolic Administrator of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem.