Made in the 1930s in Italy, the statue suffered major damages inside Urakami Cathedral on 9 August 1945. On the 65th anniversary of the bombing, “no other symbol can better signify the importance of non-violence,” the prelate said.
The Spanish city of Guernica was chosen as the pilgrimage’s final stop because “I found out that Guernica was the first city to be flattened by air power in the history of modern warfare,” Mgr Takami said, “and Nagasaki and Hiroshima were the last. And as much as this might seem incredible, the local Church has a statue of Our Lady that was hit by German bombs on 26 April 1937 during the Spanish Civil War.”
“The pilgrimage must not only show the world how much sorrow comes from violence, but also get it to ban atomic weapons,” he said. “I lost relatives during the Second World War and hope that such a disaster is never, ever repeated.”
The pilgrimage will include a long tour across Europe. The “Atomic Bombed Maria” left Japan twice before; now it is expected in Barcelona’s ‘Sagrada Familia’, where Pope Benedict XVI will meet pilgrims in audience.
In its final stop in Guernica, the statue will rest in the city’s Peace Museum, which is set to host between March and May a photographic exhibit of the bombings in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.