During his visit to Italy in early July for the G8 summit, Japanese Prime Minsiter, Tara Aso, will have a speicial audience with Pope Benedict XVI. Although you may find it surprising that Japan has a Catholic prime minister--considering that Catholics are a tiny minority in Japan--1 million in a population of 127 million--Taro Aso is actually the third Catholic to become prime minister of Japan. But Aso is the only one of the three to meet the Pope. The other Catholic prime ministers were Hara Takashi (1918-1921) and Hosokowa Morihiro (1993-94).
In recent months the Vatican and Japan have strengthened ties. In mid March, Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, the Vatican’s foreign secretary, made a six-day visit to Japan as an official guest of Japanese Foreign Ministry. He was the first Vatican top diplomat to make an official visit to Japan in the 67-year history of established diplomatic relations between the two countries.