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Ms. Setsuko Thurlow, Atomic Bomb And Hiroshima Flame Survivor © Vatican Media

Pope Francis Will Go to Hiroshima and Nagasaki in November

On a Pilgrimage of Peace

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 26, 2019 (Zenit.org).- Pope Francis confided to the press his plan of travel next November. The plan is specified, announced “Japan Today.” The Holy Father might well be in Hiroshima and Nagasaki on November 24, although the Vatican has yet to confirm the trip.

Arriving in Tokyo on November 23, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Emperor Naruhito would welcome the Pope, who on November 25 would preside over a Mass in Tokyo’s Dome Stadium.

Last May, the Pope wrote two letters, promising his prayer for the citizens of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, in response to the Mayors and the Governor of the Hiroshima Prefecture, who invited him.

Pope Francis “not only condemned” for the first time “the use of nuclear arms” but also their “possession,” in an address he gave in 2017,” points out “Japan Today.”

Nuclear Non-Proliferation

The trip would be the second of a Pope to Japan, following John Paul II’s visit in February 1981. Pope Wojtyla took part in a television broadcast, which had great success. However, most important of all was his visit to the park of the Memorial of Peace in Hiroshima, the Urakami Tenshudo Catholic church in Nagasaki and a residence of “hibakusha,” Japanese still suffering today from the effects of radiation.

For Pope Francis, it would be the realization of a dream he had as a young Jesuit to go to Japan, but his health ruled out the possibility. In 1958, when he was 22, when he decided to enter the Society of Jesus, he wished to be a missionary in Japan, However, at the end of his noviciate, his request was refused due to respiratory problems.

The first Jesuit to become Pope, he would be following in the steps of Saint Francis Xavier, who introduced Christianity in Japan in 1549.

The Pontiff was officially invited to visit Japan by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in June 2014. On May 2, 2018, Tomihisa Taue, Mayor of Nagasaki, sent a letter to Pope Francis signed by him and by the Mayor of Hiroshima, Kazumi Matsui, inviting him to their two cities, targets of atomic bombs in August 1945, leaving 110,000 dead instantly and at least the same number after being exposed to radiations.

The Japanese “understand the price of peace,” observed Monsignor Paul Richard Gallagher, the Holy See’s Secretary for Relations with States, at the end of his trip to the Land of the Rising Sun from January 28 to February 3, 2017.

Not to Identify Christianity and the West

This journey would also mark the path toward the 2020 International Nuclear Non-Proliferation Conference. It will also be the occasion to debunk the false identification between the West and Christianity, which is an obstacle for the Japanese to adhere to the Gospel: they believe they would be unfaithful to the homeland if they asked for Baptism. After all, was it not baptized individuals who triggered the atomic bombs? Baptism often means marginalizing one’s family.

Speaking to the press on the Rome-Panama flight last January 23, the Holy Father said he would go to Japan in November.

An Apostolic Journey to Japan is “being studied” at present, confirmed the interim Director of the Holy See Press Office, Alessandro Gisotti. “As the Pope has already said on other occasions, he has a great desire to go to that country,” added the spokesman.

In 1973, as Provincial of the Jesuits in the Argentine, the Pope received the Superior General of the Society, Father Pedro Arrupe, “who embodies the contemporary Jesuit epic in Japan,” and whose process of Canonization opened in November 2018.

Father Jesus Pedro Arrupe, who was elected Superior General of the Society in 1965, died in 1991. He was Master of Novices present in Hiroshima on August 6, 1945. None of them were affected by the bomb’s radiation, which led him to say that “Jesus’ Heart is more powerful than the atomic bomb.”

Meetings in the Vatican

Pope Francis met Mrs. Setsuko Thurlow, a survivor of the Hiroshima bomb, as well as a delegation carrying the Hiroshima Flame, last March 20 in St. Peter’s Square.

And last week, on June 19, during the General Audience, he greeted young Japanese of Nagasaki of the Youth Peace Messengers Association.

They came from Japan to re-launch initiatives worldwide so that those terrible events aren’t forgotten and that such tragedies aren’t repeated, indicated L’Osservatore Romano on June 20.

With them also in St. Peter’s Square was a group of the Japanese Television chain Nippon Television Network Corporation, directed by Yorisha Kono who made a documentary on the photo taken by Joseph Roger O’Donnell.

The Pope commented on the photo, evoked several times as an eloquent symbol of the consequences of the Nagasaki tragedy. It represents a boy with his small brother, who died in the atomic bombardment, waiting his turn to incinerate the body.

The Pope’s greeting card, wishing peace on the occasion of the New Year 2018, was under the sign “No” to nuclear arms. It included the photo of the young boy carrying his small dead brothers to the Nagasaki crematorium (Japan, August 9, 1945), with the comment in Italian: “The fruit of war.”

In a telegram sent on Thursday, June 2, 2019, the Holy Father expressed his ”cordial greetings” and “best wishes” to His Imperial Majesty Naruhito, Japan’s new Emperor, on the occasion of his accession to the throne.

“I assure you of my prayer so that you are endowed with the gifts wisdom and strength in your devoted service to the nation,” wrote the Pontiff in English.

He also invoked “divine blessings of peace and wellbeing” on the new Emperor, on the members of the Imperial Family and on all the Japanese people.

On May 1, Naruhito, 59, officially succeeded his father Akihito, who chose to abdicate after a 30-year reign.

In an interview with L’Osservatore Romano on July 20, 2018, Cardinal Thomas Aquinas Manyo Maeda, Archbishop of Osaka, who was born in the Archdiocese of Nagasaki and was also a Pastor at Hiroshima — the two martyr cities of the nuclear folly –, discussed the role of the Church in an increasingly secularized Japan.

Finally, on February 8, 2017, Pope Francis hailed the beatification of Samurai martyr Takayama Ukon (1552-1615), which took place the day before in Japan. An example of  “strength in the faith,’ said the Pope.

About Anita Bourdin

France. Journalist accreditated to the Holy See press office since 1995. Started Zenit in french in january 1999. Classical litterature (Paris IV-Sorbonne). Master in journalism (IJRS Bruxelles). Biblical theology (PUG, Rome).

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