Photo/Illutration Lower House Speaker Hiroyuki Hosoda on June 15 (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

After refusing comment on the issue, Lower House Speaker Hiroyuki Hosoda finally admitted his ties to the Unification Church for the first time in a statement released on Sept. 29.

He said he attended two meetings hosted by a group connected to the church, now known formally as the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification, once in 2018 and the other in 2019.

“I was invited so I went and gave a speech,” Hosoda said.

Additionally, he admitted his attendance at meetings held in March 2018 and March 2019.

“There was a record that I attended,” he said.

Hosoda also said he had an interview with a group related to the church in June 2019, and the group expressed its willingness to support him in an election.

“From now on I will handle the matter properly and not have a relationship with groups that are said to be socially problematic,” he said.

Hosoda is a former head of the largest political faction inside the ruling Liberal Democratic Party.

The faction bears the name of the late former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who was killed in Nara on July 8 while campaigning for a candidate in the Lower House election. The alleged gunman bore a grudge toward Abe for his suspected links to the church.

Hosoda was exempt from the LDP’s survey on its members about their ties to the church because he has left the LDP parliamentary group because of his position.

Hosoda did not respond to a questionnaire posed by The Asahi Shimbun.

Members of the ruling and opposition parties have asked Hosoda to explain his relationship with the church before the extraordinary Diet session that opens on Oct. 3.

Recently, Hosoda has been dogged by scandals, including being accused of sexually harassing a female journalist.

Hosoda has yet to hold a news conference regarding the case or his ties with the church.