Interview with Cardinal Maeda on expectations for the Pope’s visit to the A-bombed cities

by Junji Akechi, Staff Writer

Manyo Maeda, a cardinal who met with Pope Francis at the Vatican last December, granted an interview with the Chugoku Shimbun at the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Osaka on January 22. The Pope has expressed his desire to visit Japan around the end of this year, including a visit to the two A-bombed cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Cardinal Maeda said that he hopes Pope Francis will deliver a strong message from Hiroshima that rejects war.

When you met with the Pope, what did he say about visiting the A-bombed cities?
I met him at his office with the archbishops of Nagasaki and Tokyo. He said that he would like to send out a message of nuclear abolition from Nagasaki, stressing the idea that not only using, but also producing nuclear weapons is immoral. In Hiroshima, he would like to engage in dialogue with other religious figures, such as Buddhist monks. We asked him to convey a message of peace from both A-bombed cities.

Have the schedule and places he will visit been determined?
Since the ceremonies involving the new emperor’s enthronement will take place in the middle of November, I expect it’s highly likely that Pope Francis will come to Japan around the end of November. It is certain that he will visit Tokyo, Hiroshima, and Nagasaki, but the specific contents of his visit will depend on the schedule. As the Pope wants to speak with a group of young people, I am considering the idea of offering this opportunity in Hiroshima. The people of Okinawa and the area affected by the Great East Japan Earthquake have requested that the Pope visit their locations, too.

What hopes do you have for the Pope’s visit?
Each year, the Pope delivers a message for the World Day of Peace on January 1. In this year’s message, he stated firmly that the vices of politics may threaten social harmony, and that good politics is at the service of peace. As the Pope understands the significance of the messages that he conveys, he feels strongly that he must send out these messages, even if he faces criticism afterward. I believe that his message from the A-bombed cities will include the idea that politics plays an important role in the goal of eliminating nuclear weapons. I hope his message will provide us with hope for realizing nuclear abolition.


Pope’s visit to Hiroshima
In 1981, the late John Paul II came to Hiroshima, the first time a pope visited the A-bombed city, and delivered the “Appeal for Peace from Hiroshima,” a message calling for the abolition of nuclear weapons, from in front of the Cenotaph for the A-bomb Victims. The current pope, Pope Francis, has made repeated appeals for nuclear abolition since he became pontiff in 2013. The Vatican ratified the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in 2017. The City of Hiroshima and Hiroshima Prefecture asked the Pope to visit Hiroshima on occasions that included his General Audience. Pope Francis expressed his desire to visit the A-bombed cities when he met with Cardinal Maeda last December.

(Originally published on January 23, 2019)