The archbishops stayed with Archbishop Nakamura at his residence, which is part of the Catholic Center. This morning, they celebrated Mass, and we joined them later for a formal meeting about the idea of joining our four dioceses in an alliance or partnership. The discussions were fruitful and will continue tomorrow.
After, we began a tour of several Catholic sites in a city steeped in Christianity, starting with “Nyokodo,” the home of Dr. Nagai Takashi, a doctor who wrote more than a dozen books about peace and love after he was bedridden from Leukemia desperate to spread his messages to humanity. He survived the A-bomb, but his wife did not. He wrote:
“She was the kind of woman who would come to confirm my survival as long as life remained in her body…Three days later, I returned to the site of my house. It was an expanse of ashes, but I found her immediately. A black lump lay where the kitchen had been, the charred remains of a pelvis and spine left by the all-consuming fire. A rosary with a cross was lying nearby.”
Luckily his children were off in the countryside when the bomb dropped and were spared. When Dr. Nagai became bedridden, his friends built him a very small house where he lived with his children until he died at age 43 in 1951. His words of peace and other life lessons appeared in his books and echoed around the world, attracting attention from people like Helen Keller and Pope Pius XII.
After, we stopped at the Peace Park, built on the site of a former prison and down the road from the cenotaph (where the bomb was dropped.) The park was to be the site of a major peace celebration that was cancelled due to the impending typhoon. The centerpiece of this park is a large peace statue pointing to the side to signify “No more war” and pointing to the sky to signify “No more atomic bombs.” We walked around the cenotaph and paused for prayer.
Our next stop was the Atomic Bomb Museum, which shares the story of the A-bomb in Nagasaki. Images of corpses and injured people were difficult to take in – but very effective in demonstrating the horror of such a weapon. Quotes from children begging for their missing families were stirring and solidified our resolve to continue to work for a world without nuclear weapons.
Our last stop was the Twenty-Six Martyrs Hill, where 26 Christians were martyred for preaching about Christianity in 1597. Their crucifixion on the hill was meant to warn others, but in reality, it did the opposite and helped spread Christianity underground until it was accepted centuries later. The museum houses several artifacts, documents, and displays about Christianity in Japan over the last few centuries. Together we gathered in the room with relics of the martyrs to pray our Novena for Peace.
The evening closed with the “Memorial Ceremony for the Victims of the Atomic Bomb” at the Catholic Center to mark the 51st anniversary of this annual event honoring the lives of those impacted by the A-bomb. Shinto, Buddhists, Christians, and other religions joined to share condolences, renounce nuclear weapons, and express the desire for peace. The beautiful event featured music, a youth procession, traditional dance, a flower ceremony, and speeches from dignitaries and religious leaders, including Archbishop Etienne, who expressed his gratitude and a desire to work together saying,
“Together in solidarity, we will strive ever more diligently to abolish all nuclear weapons. In doing so, we must wean ourselves from nuclear deterrence and develop a new concept of global security that also addresses the climate crisis. Mindful of our need for assistance, let us pray: O God of universal peace, bless us with creativity, faithfulness, and a sense of urgency in our unwavering efforts to abolish nuclear weapons. Amen.”