Column: Pope Francis visits the A-bombed cities

It is said that Pope Francis hoped to be a missionary in Japan during his younger days and that he has always felt a sympathetic connection to this country. Yesterday he paid his first visit to Nagasaki. But he is visiting Japan not because of his personal feelings but to pray for the victims of the atomic bombings and to call for a world without nuclear weapons.

Pope Francis received a wreath from an A-bomb survivor in the Atomic Bomb Hypocenter Park before placing it at the foot of the Hypocenter Cenotaph. He bowed his head and offered a silent prayer for the victims, standing still in a pouring rain. Among the thoughts that went through his mind may have been the image of two brothers.

This image of the brothers was captured in a photograph taken in Nagasaki shortly after the atomic bombing of that city. In the image, a boy carries his dead brother on his back as he awaits his turn at the cremation site. Deeply touched by the photo, the Pope had copies of it printed with the words “the fruits of war” on the back and distributed them around the world. And now he is visiting the A-bombed cities in person.

When he visited Hiroshima 38 years ago, Pope John Paul II said, “War is the work of man.” Yesterday in Nagasaki, Pope Francis said, “A world without nuclear weapons is possible and necessary.” And yesterday evening in Hiroshima, he said, “A true peace can only be an unarmed peace.”

These are powerful messages directed to the leaders of the world’s nations. The Vatican promptly signed and ratified the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, and the Pope has been demonstrating his firm resolve to promote nuclear abolition through his actions. The only nation to have experienced atomic bombings must begin taking action, too.

(Originally published on November 25, 2019)