By Vatican News staff writer
Japan marked the 76th anniversary of the world’s first atomic bombing of Nagasaki on Monday, just three days after that of Hiroshima.
In the annual ceremony, scaled-down this year due to Covid-19, citizens observed a minute of silence at 8:15 am local time - the exact time the first bomb hit Hiroshima 76 years ago.
The United States dropped the world’s first atomic bomb on Hiroshima on 6 August 1945, destroying the city and killing an estimated 140,000 people. It dropped a second bomb three days later on Nagasaki, killing another 70,000. Japan surrendered on 15 August 1945, bringing an end to the Second World War.
Church in service of peace
Ahead of the commemorations, Andrea di Angelis of Vatican News spoke to Archbishop Joseph Mitsuaki Takami of Nagasaki, who reflected on the blast anniversary and the Church’s role in working for peace.
Reflecting on the massive destruction wrought by the bombs, the Archbishop noted that the effects, passed on to following generations, bring the importance of working for peace to the fore.
He recalled that during Pope Francis’ visit to Japan in November 2019, the Holy Father’s central message was peace and the protection of the right to life for all creatures – not only physical life but also spiritual. Archbishop Takami explained that this is also a mission given to us by Jesus.
Inspired by this, the Church has to continue not only to pray for peace, but also to promote the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, so that it can be signed and ratified by all nations, and the world can finally become free of nuclear weapons.
“We know that a world without nuclear weapons does not automatically make for peace,” he said, adding that abolishing nuclear weapons is one of the challenges the world has to surmount on its path towards peace.
“We have to make many efforts toward renewal, to recreate the human spirit by insisting on the importance of the practice of love taught and showed by Jesus Christ.”
Calls for abolition of nuclear weapons
During the anniversary ceremony held at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park on Friday, the Mayor of Hiroshima, Kazumi Matsui, urged world leaders to commit to nuclear disarmament as seriously as they tackle the pandemic that the world recognizes as a threat to humanity.
“Nuclear weapons, developed to win wars, are a threat of total annihilation that we can certainly end, if all nations work together,” Matsui said. “No sustainable society is possible with these weapons continually poised for indiscriminate slaughter.”
Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said the government would continue to support the aging survivors of the atom bomb blast, and invited all nations to work together to promote the total abolition of nuclear weapons.
In a video message, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres affirmed that “the only guarantee against the use of nuclear weapons is their total elimination” and expressed concern over the slow-paced progress towards achieving a nuclear-free world.
Guterres pointed at the “unparalleled advocacy” of the bomb’s survivors – the hibakusha – which he describes as a “testament to the resilience of the human spirit.” He added that they have dedicated their lives to sharing their experiences and campaigning to make sure that no one else suffers their fate. In this light, he reaffirmed the UN’s commitment to working towards achieving the goal of a nuclear-weapon-free world.
International attention has been on the East Asian country in recent times due to the ongoing XXXII Olympic Games in Tokyo, which came to an end on Sunday, 8 August.