Hibakusha, antinuclear groups express gratitude to Pope for speaking for them during his visit to Hiroshima

(by Michiko Tanaka and Yoshiaki Kido, Staff Writers)

Hearing Pope Francis state clearly in Hiroshima that the use of atomic energy for purposes of war is “a crime,” representatives of A-bomb survivors’ organizations and antinuclear groups expressed their gratitude. One said that the words voiced by the Pope “represented my thoughts.” Another said that his words “encouraged” them. As a result, they have renewed their determination to seek the elimination of nuclear weapons.

Representatives of the two Hiroshima Prefectural Confederation of A-bomb Sufferers Organizations (Hiroshima Prefectural Hidankyo) welcomed Pope Francis in the Peace Memorial Park. Toshiyuki Mimaki, 77, the acting chair of the Hiroshima Prefectural Hidankyo, chaired by Sunao Tsuboi, said in a trembling voice that “The Pope clearly rejected nuclear weapons. I felt that we share the same belief.”

The Pope did not directly refer to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Hiroshima, but he did in Nagasaki.

Mr. Mimaki said, “The government of Japan, which experienced the atomic bombings, has not even signed the treaty.” He then continued, “I hope this will change.”

Kunihiko Sakuma, 75, the chair of the other Hiroshima Prefectural Hidankyo, said, “His message, filled with empathy for the A-bomb survivors, purified my soul. I think he feels a sense of crisis over the rising development of nuclear weapons. He strongly urged countries that depend on nuclear weapons to seriously consider whether the current circumstances can be allowed to remain as they are.” Mr. Sakuma stressed that the Pope “preached to all the people around the world about the necessity of dialogue.” He said, “We must put his teachings into practice.”

Haruko Moritaki, 80, the co-chair of a citizens’ group called the Hiroshima Alliance for Nuclear Weapons Abolition, watched the live broadcast of the ceremony on television at her home in Saeki Ward, Hiroshima. “I felt his extraordinary resolution for nuclear abolition,” said Ms. Moritaki. “He pointed out that it is a fallacy when political leaders’ speak of peace while relying on nuclear deterrence, and he asserted that the use of nuclear weapons is a crime. The impact of his message is significant.”

Pope Francis will meet with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on November 25. Ms. Moritaki said, “I hope the Pope will urge the prime minister to ratify the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.” She added, “We will pay attention to the prime minister’s response and call on him to ratify the treaty.”

(Originally published on November 25, 2019)