Hiroshima National Peace Memorial Hall begins exhibition introducing lives of Jesuit priests

by Miho Kuwajima, Staff Writer

Priests worked to save survivors after A-bombing despite their own wounds

The special exhibition “Commitment—The Priests of Hiroshima and the Road to Recovery” began on March 1 at the Hiroshima National Peace Memorial Hall for the Atomic Bomb Victims, located in the city’s Naka Ward. The exhibition introduces the lives of Jesuit priests from overseas who, despite their wounds, worked hard to save survivors amid the chaos of the atomic bombing.

A 30-minute video documentary based on the testimonies of the priests, who were assigned to the Nobori-cho Church (now in Naka Ward), is being shown at the exhibition. Arthur Binard, 53, a poet from the United States, narrates the documentary as the voice of Father Hubert Cieslik (1914-1998), from Germany, who experienced the bombing at the church, about 1.2 kilometers from the hypocenter.

The video looks back on how the priests saved the lives of others while discriminatory, anti-foreigner vitriol was hurled their way, as well as the actions of Father Pedro Arrupe (1907-1991), from Spain, who worked with nuns to treat the wounded that flocked to the Nagatsuka Jesuit novitiate (now in Asaminami Ward). The video also touches on the Christmas Mass held in December 1945 in a shed built atop the ruins of the city, as well as on the construction of the Memorial Cathedral for World Peace that started several years later.

Ten items, including an incense burner kept at the Nobori-cho Church that was deformed by thermal rays from the blast, are on display. Visitors can also read the A-bomb accounts of nine survivors on a touch-screen display. Miwako Toi, 77, a resident of Nishi Ward who visited the exhibition on the first day, said tearfully, “I was deeply touched by their dedication. We should not forget that the recovery of Hiroshima would not have been possible without the support of so many people.” The exhibition, admission for which is free of charge, will be held through the end of February next year.

(Originally published on March 2, 2021)