NAGASAKI, Japan — Is the pope “Kyoko,” or “Ho-o” in Japanese?

The Japanese government adopted the term “Kyoko” (教皇) as the official translation of his title ahead of his visit this weekend, in line with the policy of the Catholic Church in Japan, replacing “Ho-o” (法王).

Catholics also used both titles but adopted the new title “Kyoko” following the 1981 visit to Japan by St. John Paul II. The faithful say it includes the Chinese character that clearly shows that the pope is a man of teachings. The Chinese characters used in the new title literally mean “emperor of teachings.” The earlier one meant “king of law.”

The official translation of the pope had been “Ho-o” in Japanese dating from when the Vatican established ties with Japan in 1942. That name remains on a plate posted at the Vatican’s embassy entrance.

Many Catholics actually call the pope “Kyoko-sama,” or “Kyoko-san.” Phonetically, “Kyoko” is also a common name for Japanese women.

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