Column: Pope to visit A-bombed cities in 2019

Cardinal Manyo Maeda was born and raised on one of the Goto Islands in Nagasaki Prefecture, where many retained their faith in Christianity even when it was prohibited. His mother experienced the atomic bombing while at a munitions factory in Nagasaki. He must have felt a surge of emotion when he heard that Pope Francis is hoping to visit Hiroshima and Nagasaki around the end of next year.

Upon being elevated to cardinal this year, he began asking that the Pope visit the A-bombed cities. Until 2014, he was the bishop of Hiroshima and he came to believe more and more strongly that the Pope’s visit to this city, where the appeal made by Pope John Paul II is still embraced, would surely be a step toward creating greater peace in the world.

The “Appeal for Peace at Hiroshima” was made by Pope John Paul II when he visited Hiroshima for the first time 37 years ago. His words “War is death” have been carried on by his followers. That visit was made possible partly through the considerable efforts of Atsumi Misue, who was born in Hirado, Nagasaki and also served as the bishop of Hiroshima. The next visit to Japan by a Pope will again be realized through the efforts of people who are linked to the A-bomb cities.

Pope Francis was reportedly also moved by the photo of a Nagasaki boy carrying his dead brother on his back while waiting to have him cremated after the atomic bombing of that city. He has been distributing copies of the photo with the words “the fruit of war” written on the back.

The Pope’s visit, which the A-bomb survivors and mayors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki have been hoping for, is coming to fruition. During his time in Japan, what appeal will he make to world? We hope to hear words that will touch human hearts beyond the lines of nations and religions.

(Originally published on December 19, 2018)