|Katayanagi Hiroshi (Jesuit seminarian)|
I met Mr. Tanaka for the first time, three years ago. I was at that time a volunteer at Mother Teresa's institution in Tokyo and they invited me to go with the sisters at a nearby detention center. Although I was not interested in visiting the detention center, I decided, at once, to go with them. We waited for a while in a chilly waiting room, and when they called our card number, we were brought to a meeting room. A weak-looking man with a pale face appeared. He was Mr. Tanaka.
Only after we have met him I heard from the Sisters that he had been given a death sentence. I was astonished. The person we had just met looked serious and with calm. I could not put together the image I had of a brutal prisoner sentenced to death with him. The person I had met was just an ordinary man.
A few days later I received a letter of thanks from him and as a result of answering him we started corresponding with each other. Afterwards, I entered the Society of Jesus in Hiroshima and was sent to the Philippines for a while, but during all that time we kept in contact by letter. Little by little I came to the understanding that, like myself, he was a human person fighting with worries and suffering. But at the same time, the state was trying to kill him.
He was tried and had received a death sentence, because he had committed 4 crimes of burglary and murder. A few days ago, the Supreme Court dismissed his final appeal and gave him an irrevocable death judgement. Probably, within a few years he will be executed. The lives of the 4 persons he took are most precious and his crimes are really frightful and should be criticized. Nevertheless, could such crimes be a sufficient reason to take the life of Mr. Tanaka?
I came to Tokyo in March after finishing my Jesuit novitiate and began again to visit him once a month. Right now, more and more, my heart is full of doubts. The state is trying to kill a person known to me who is desperate to survive. How can I confront him from now on?
He entrusted me with the article that follows before the irrevocable sentence of the Supreme Court. I wanted people to know about him by reading the article. You are by no means going to meet there a repentant holy person. I want people to meet a person gifted with wonderful and beautiful talents that, at the same time, holds many ill-looking and human weaknesses. I would appreciate any thoughts on how his life could be saved. This will provide an opportunity to reflect on the present death- penalty system that is about to take his life.
He has drawn many pictures in prison. As Mr. Tanaka explains below, there is an itinerant "Painting Exhibition" of paintings done in jail by prisoners sentenced to death. Persons who visit those prisoners use this exhibition for making people reflect on the system of the death penalty and the preservation of the lives of those prisoners. Next June the Catholic Center of Sophia University will sponsor such an exhibition.