“Where is the statue of Santa Maria”?
The French priests who came to Japan spent their days wondering whether all the Japanese Christians of the 17th century really had died out (as was assumed). Soon, a miracle occurred…
Father Petitjean (a missionary sent to Japan by the Paris Foreign Mission Society) vividly described in a letter to a fellow priest the happiness he felt following an event which became known as the “Discovery of Christians”: "Dear parish priest, let your heart rejoice! We have just found out that there are many descendents of the Kirishitan from of old near us and that they have been there all along!”
Roughly one month after the construction of Oura Cathedral was completed, a group of over 10 Japanese people came to the front of its closed gate. Father Petitjean let them in to the church and started to pray. Then, three women drew close to him, and one of them whispered the following: "Our hearts and your heart are the same". After informing him that they were from Nagasaki's Urakami district, they asked "Where is the statue of Santa Maria?" By making this confession of faith, they were risking their lives. When Father Petitjean took them to the statue of Mary with the Infant Christ in her arms they all voiced their emotion. Then, sensing that someone had come into the church, they quickly dispersed.
This "Discovery of Christians" gave hope to the priests, and also gave encouragement to the Hidden Christians, who were hiding in various places.