Silence is a 2016 film directed by Martin Scorsese that highlights the struggles of Fr. Sebastião Rodrigues and Fr. Francisco Garupe, Italian Jesuit catholic priests on a mission to find whereabouts of their mentor priest, Fr. Cristóvão Ferreira, who had been on a mission to preach Christianity to the Japanese. News had reached Italy that Fr. Ferreira had renounced his faith because of the torture and suffering by the Japanese Buddhist regime. The historical film brings to life the untold suffering, torture, and death of the Japanese who had converted to Christianity. The 161-minute film shows characters who face religious challenges that force them to betray their Christian faith. Betrayal of faith in Silence is brought about by differing reasons as per the experiences of the characters.
Betrayal of faith by the characters is evident from the beginning of the film when information regarding Fr. Ferreira’s apostasy reaches Italy. Fr. Rodrigues and Fr. Garupe find it difficult to believe that their leader and mentor had eventually denounced his faith and calling as a priest. It is a difficult situation for the two younger missionaries as they prepare to find out what may have happened in Japan.
Kichijiro is a character that depicts the betrayal of the faith. He is an earlier Christian convert who later denounced his faith before escaping from Japan. He later asks for forgiveness and makes confession to Fr. Rodrigues who absolves him of his sin. Unexpectedly, Kichijiro allows the Japanese authorities to arrest Fr. Rodrigues in act of betrayal because he was the guide and interpreter (Scorsese, 0:32.12). The betrayal occurs because Kichijiro has been threatened by torture for being a Christian. Many years later, he meets Fr. Rodrigues and asks for forgiveness (Scorsese, 1:37.02). However, Fr. Rodrigues refuses because he is no longer a priest because he had renounced the faith to save other local Christians from torture.
Major characters in the film betray their faith to save themselves from the extreme physical torture and death from the Japanese. In Luke Chapter 22 (New English Translation, 1996) Judas is the face of betrayal, going by his behavior towards Jesus Christ at the end of His ministry. He decided to falsely accuse Christ to allow the Jews arrest and crucify Jesus for committing blasphemy. In this film, Kichijiro’s behavior mirrors that of Judas in the New Testament’s Luke 22 (New English Translation, 1996). While Kichijiro is supposed to lead Fr. Rodrigues and help him win people to Christianity, he betrays him to the Japanese authorities, leading to his arrest and persecution. He alludes to have betrayed Fr. Rodrigues to secure his own freedom from Buddhist authorities.
In Silence, Fr. Rodrigues is a passionate priest with a determination to win Japanese for Christ. He refuses to renounce his faith no matter the persecution he witnesses against Christians in Japan. According to him, the suffering of the Japanese Christians is only a challenge to their faith and he is optimistic of overcoming the opposition. When he suffers betrayal in the hands of Kichijiro who was his guide, he still refuses to renounce Christianity when he is arrested and imprisoned. However, after witnessing years of Christian persecution, he decides to change his mind. He is taken to visit Fr. Ferreira, his mentor and former fellow Jesuit Priest who advises him to renounce his faith to save the Japanese Christians.
Betrayal of the faith in Silence takes different dimensions as per the circumstances characters find themselves. Unlike in the bible, where Judas betrays Jesus Christ who has been with him for monetary gain, betrayal of faith by Fr. Ferreira and Fr. Rodrigues is different. According to the conversation the two have, Fr. Ferreira decided to renounce the faith while undergoing the torture. In addition, he was disillusioned because he had spent more than 15 years in Japan preaching in an attempt to spread Christianity without noticeable change. The inability of the Japanese to embrace Christianity and persecution of the converts were the main reasons for Fr. Ferreira’s apostasy. He seems to be rooting for Buddhism as a sensible religion after all at the end of his conversation with Fr. Rodrigues.
Fr. Rodrigues’s betrayal of faith comes from his need to save the many Japanese Christians from torture and death. Fr. Ferreira tells him that many Japanese will be safe when he commits apostasy, something he is not ready to do. The commitment he has towards Jesuit priesthood and the Christian faith does not allow him to commit apostasy. He attempts to look up into heavens for help but everything seems to be silent. Hope for salvation towards his people fails to come and he cannot allow the suffering to continue (Lewis, 2001). He later decides to put his faith, priesthood, and Christianity aside to save Japanese Christians. His action can be taken as a betrayal of faith; however, he does it for the common good of the believers. Just like Christ who died for the salvation of the world, he decides to do away with his faith to allow the rest of Christians to be free from torture.
Silence is a film that indicates various circumstances that lead to the betrayal of faith. The Jesuit priests are committed to spreading Christianity; however, the circumstances are difficult for them and other converts. Some converts like Kichijiro betray their faith to save themselves from torture after witnessing the death of his family members and other Japanese Christians. Fr. Ferreira is disillusioned and sees no hope for Japan to embrace Christianity, leading to his apostasy. Fr. Rodrigues also commits apostasy because of the desire to save other Christians from suffering at the hands of the Buddhist. He sees his actions differently from the rest of the other Christians who commit apostasy.
Lewis, C. S. (2001). Mere Christianity. Toronto: Harper Collins Publishers LTD.
“Silence”. (2016). Metacritic.com. Archived. Accessed on 2nd April 2020.
The Holy Bible, New English Translation, 1996.