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Catholics in Nagasaki gather on anniversary of the atomic bomb in Urukami Cathedral Catholics in Nagasaki gather on anniversary of the atomic bomb in Urukami Cathedral  (ANSA)

Bishop Takami recounts the aftermath of the atomic bombing

75 years ago today, devastation hit Nagasaki in the form of an atom bomb. Catholics too are commemorating this anniversary and are telling their story.

By Sr Bernadette Mary Reis, fsp


The world is remembering what happened in Hiroshima on 6 August 1945 and Nagasaki on 9 August that same year.

On 3 August Georgetown University’s Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs posted a pre-recorded webcast entitled “Catholics Commemorate 75 years after Hiroshima and Nagasaki”.

The current Bishop of Nagasaki and President of the Japanese Conference of Catholic Bishops, Bishop Mitsuaki Takami, contributed to the webcast. He explains the consequences the people suffered on the 6th and 9th August, and on the days, months and years that followed.

Loss of life

Bishop Takami recounts that he was born in March of 1946. He was unborn at the time the atom bomb struck. Therefore, he himself did not witness the destruction firsthand. However, numerous members of his family suffered from burns which proved fatal: his maternal grandmother “died a painful death after one week without receiving medical attention”; two other aunts were never found, another married aunt was never found and her husband died as well; another aunt, a woman religious, was outside at the time of the explosion and died after twelve days of agonizing pain due to exposure to the heat the bomb produced; a cousin developed symptoms and died 14 years later at age 17. This story was repeated for thousands of families living in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

“Under the mushroom cloud, this quiet town was unspeakably, mercilessly destroyed.”

Loss of faith

Twenty-four parisioners were on their way to Urakami Church that fatal day. They sought the consolation of the Sacrament of Reconciliation in view of the 15 August celebration of the Feast of the Assumption. They, along with approximately 8,500 people, of a total of 12,000 parishioners, died in the months that followed.

“The loss of their house of worship built upon all kinds of sacrifices over thirty years on their part was especially spiritually damaging to them. Some parishioners lost their faith and left the Church.”

Loss of future

Survivors continued to be scarred not only physically by other forms of torments as well. Those who had been badly burned were shunned by those who were “scared” of them. Others would experience discrimination, Bishop Takami recounts. Some were rejected as a marriage partners because it was thought that radiation poisoning was genetically transmittable. To this day, the Bishop says, people continue to suffer from the effects of the radiation they were exposed to.

Worst effect: loss of trust

It is Dr Takashi Nagai, author of The Bells of Nagasaki, and a Catholic radiologist, who described the “worst effect of the atomic bomb: ‘the loss of trust in humanity’.”

“The greatest damage from the atomic bombing was neither the loss of our house nor the burning of our property, it was neither the loss of our relatives and friends nor the inability to work due to disability or ill health. It was the loss of trust in humanity” (Dr Takashi Nagai).

09 August 2020, 09:29