As Catholics in Japan commemorate the 75th anniversary of the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki by an atomic bomb, their Bishops take steps to promote peace and abolish nuclear weapons.
The Apostolic Visits of Pope John Paul II in 1981 and Pope Francis in 2019 to Hiroshima and Nagasaki have been decisive in promoting peace and nuclear disarmament.
The current Bishop of Nagasaki and President of the Japanese Conference of Catholic Bishops, Bishop Mitsuaki Takami, explained how in a pre-recorded webcast entitled “Catholics Commemorate 75 years after Hiroshima and Nagasaki” posted on 3 August by Georgetown University’s Berkley Centre for Religion, Peace and World Affairs.
Why we must remember
Bishop Takami said the words Pope John Paul spoke in Japanese on 25 February 1981 in Hiroshima at the Peace Memorial are memorialised in Japanese and English on a monument at the Memorial’s entrance.
“War is the work of man. War is destruction of human life. War is death. To remember the past is to commit oneself to the future… To remember Hiroshima is to abhor nuclear war… To remember Hiroshima is to commit oneself to peace… Let us promise our fellow human beings that we will work untiringly for disarmament and the banishing of all nuclear weapons” (Pope John Paul II).
Ten Days of Prayer for Peace initiated
In response to Pope John Paul II’s words, Bishop Takami said that the Bishops’ Conference “decided to designate the period from 6 August, the day Hiroshima was bombed, until 15 August, the day the war ended, as ‘Ten Days of Prayer for Peace’”. This practice began in 1982 and continues to this day, the Bishop said.
Pope Francis takes a further step
Last year in November, Pope Francis visited both cities on his Apostolic Journey to Japan in November 2019.
“He went one step further” than his predecessor, Bishop Takami explains. “He declared that the possession and use of nuclear weapons are ‘immoral.’ He stressed the need for unity and working together toward a world free of nuclear weapons and committed the Church to the goal.”
“The use of atomic energy for purposes of war is immoral, just as the possessing of nuclear weapons is immoral” (Pope Francis, Hiroshima, 24 November 2019).
“A world of peace, free from nuclear weapons, is the aspiration of millions of men and women everywhere. To make this ideal a reality calls for involvement on the part of all: individuals, religious communities and civil society, countries that possess nuclear weapons and those that do not, the military and private sectors, and international organisations. Our response to the threat of nuclear weapons must be joint and concerted.
“We must never grow weary of working to support the principal international legal instruments of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation, including the Treaty on the prohibition of nuclear weapons” (Pope Francis, Hypocenter Park, Nagasaki, 24 November 2019).
Nuclear-Free World Foundation launched
As long as the idea that “weapons are necessary” to promote peace, Bishop Takami said, abolishing nuclear weapons will remain difficult. He nourishes the hope that the U.S. and Japan will one day not only “reconcile with each other”, but “work together for the abolition of nuclear weapons.”
To that end, and in response to Pope Francis’s appeal in Hiroshima, a “Nuclear-Free World Foundation was formally launched on 7 July”, at the initiative of Archbishop Alexis Mitsuru Shirahama of Hiroshima. This Foundation will fund people “working for the ratification of the U.N. Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons”, Bishop Takami says. Their goal is that “fifty countries sign and ratify the treaty.” The dioceses of Hiroshima and Nagasaki will direct fundraising activities, and “three existing civic peace organisations will manage” the Foundation, the Bishop says.
Month for Protecting All Lives
In conclusion, Bishop Takami says that the Japanese Bishops have also designated the period from 1 September to 4 October as a “Month for Protecting All Lives”.
This period corresponds to the Season of Creation, and the words are reminiscent of the motto of Pope Francis’s Apostolic Journey: Protect All Life.
This month is meant to encourage Japanese Catholics to undertake “concrete actions” to improve the environment and protect the earth.
“I firmly believe that protecting the environment and promoting wholistic human development will lead to peace” (Bishop Mitsuaki Takami).
With thanks to Vatican News and Sr Bernadette Mary Reis fsp, where this article originally appeared.