Rain fell as Typhoon Khanun rolled into town. We started our day by continuing our discussions with the Archbishops of Nagasaki and the Bishop of Hiroshima about the partnership between our four dioceses. The talks were cordial, and we made quick progress as all parties agreed on the work's major pillars.
We attended the memorial Mass at the Urakami Cathedral to mark the 78th anniversary of dropping the bomb on Nagasaki. At 11:02 a.m., the bomb sirens wailed to draw attention to the time of the explosion which was followed by a moment of silence.
Archbishop Wester gave the homily urging people to take action for peace. During the homily, he and Archbishop Etienne laid roses at the remains of Our Lady of Nagasaki, a wooden head of the Virgin Mary that survived the bombing. Her burnt face is both miraculous and haunting as she reminds us of the devastation and pain of that horrific day.
After Mass, we enjoyed a traditional Japanese lunch and headed to Oura Catholic Church. Built in 1864, this was the first Catholic Church in Japan. At the time, the Japanese government only allowed French missionaries and foreigners to use the church – since all Japanese were mandated to be Buddhist. However, "hidden Christians" secretly revealed their devotion to Christ to Fr. Petitjean, and eventually, many became martyrs or were exiled for their beliefs.
Archbishop Emeritus of Nagasaki, Joseph Takami, petitioned the pope to turn the historic ornate building into a basilica, the only basilica in Japan, and it is still used today for special celebrations.
The evening ended with a farewell dinner at the Archbishop of Nagasaki's house. But not until after the Partnership Declaration was edited, reviewed, and officially signed. This was a significant milestone on this Pilgrimage of Peace and marked the beginning of our international bridge-building to strengthen our relationship and take action that will draw attention to the need to abolish nuclear weapons.