Five Japanese and US bishops pledge to work together towards a “world without nuclear weapons” and call for concrete progress in this effort by August 2025, the 80th anniversary of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings.
By Lisa Zengarini
On the 78th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Nagasaki, on 9 August 1945, a group of five Japanese and US Catholic bishops from areas impacted by atomic weapons have joined in a formal pledge to concretely work towards “a world without nuclear weapons”.
Pilgrimage of Peace to Japan
The partnership declaration was signed by Archbishop Peter Michiaki Nakamura of Nagasaki, Bishop Alexis Mitsuru Shirahama of Hiroshima, and Archbishop Emeritus of Nagasaki, Joseph Mitsuaki Takami, and by Archbishops John Wester of Santa Fe (New Mexico) and Paul Etienne of Seattle (Washington).
Their declaration came at the conclusion of a 1-9 August Pilgrimage of Peace to Japan which the two US Archbishops made to mark the annual commemoration of the 1945 bombings of the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Both US archdioceses are situated in areas that have close ties to the production and deployment of nuclear weapons, since the United States houses its major nuclear arsenal in western Washington state, and New Mexico, where Santa Fe is located, is considered to be the birthplace of the atomic bomb.
During the pilgrimage, the two US archbishops participated in memorial ceremonies, and spoke about the need to abolish nuclear weapons.
In the declaration, the group called for “concrete progress” in this effort by August 2025, the 80th anniversary of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings.
Appeal to world leaders
Echoing Pope Francis’ condemnation of the mere “possession” of nuclear weapons, they urged world leaders to take specific steps towards their complete abolition of nuclear weapons.
Their call included the acknowledgment of the long-lasting suffering inflicted by the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombings, and of the environmental impacts of uranium mining and production of nuclear weapons; an effective commitment to prevent a new arms race, safeguards against nuclear weapons use and advance nuclear disarmament; and, the reaffirmation that a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.
The bishops also outlined concrete actions they will undertake to this end in the spirit of “remembering, walking together, and protecting”, as Pope Francis said in his address at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial on 24 November 2019.
In order to recall the horrors of the past, the bishops said that they intend to listen to and create dialogue with people on both sides of the issue, including victims of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, uranium miners, peace activists, nuclear engineers, military personnel and diplomats.
To walk together, the five bishops said that they will offer Mass at least once a year with a special intention for a world without nuclear weapons, and wherever possible, will call for a special collection to support nuclear victims and restore the environment destroyed by nuclear weapons.
Finally, to protect, the signatories said they will continue advocacy for countries to sign the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, and for world leaders to redirect money spent on their development and maintenance toward helping vulnerable populations and addressing environmental issues.
So far, not one of the Group of Seven (G7) countries, including United States, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and the United Kingdom, has subscribed the Treaty, which was first signed by the Holy See.
The five US and Japanese bishops invited other dioceses and religious traditions to join them in these efforts.
They concluded their declaration by calling upon “Christ, the Prince of Peace, our partner and companion on the journey, to bless our partnership” and by asking for “the intercession of Mary, Queen of Peace.”