08/05/2005, 00.00
JAPAN
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To remember the past is to commit oneself to peace, say Archbishops of Hiroshima and Nagasaki

Quoting John Paul II, the Japanese prelates unveil their message on the 60th anniversary of the atomic bomb. Today, Catholics are on pilgrimage Nagasaki to Hiroshima.

Hiroshima (AsiaNews) – Hiroshima is getting ready to commemorate the 60th anniversary of what is considered the first nuclear holocaust in history. The series of celebrations, in which the local Catholic Church is set to take part, will commence when the city and the whole country stop to mark the event with a moment of silence tomorrow at 8:15 am.

That was the instant when on August 6, 1945, a US B-29 bomber, the Enola Gay, dropped Little Boy, a bomb which on impact released radiation that killed 140,000 of the city's 350,000 residents.

Its effects still linger with some 5,000 people dying every year and City officials estimate that the total number of dead now stands at 242,000.

Municipal authorities have organised several activities to mark the anniversary. Yesterday, a commemorative ceremony brought together about a thousand children from primary and secondary schools and elderly relatives who survived the blast.

Similarly, 99 mayors representing cities from 25 countries joined Hiroshima's Mayor Tadatoshi Akiba in a symposium "to free the world from atomic bombs".

Sources in City Hall said that Mayor Akiba in his speech tomorrow "will ask the United Nations set up a special committee to discuss proposals to create a world without nuclear weapons".

The local Catholic Church has also scheduled a series of prayer meetings between today and August 9, the day when another atomic bomb forever linked the city of Nagasaki to Hiroshima.

Today a procession for peace with survivors bearing witness will be the prelude to a mass and midnight prayer vigil.

Meanwhile, Hagasaki faithful led by their Archbishop, Mgr Joseph Mitsuaki Takami, are on a 500-km (310 mile) pilgrimage to Hiroshima.

Early tomorrow morning an inter-faith prayer will take place simultaneously in both cities—a mass for peace will follow in Hiroshima.

In his message on the anniversary of the atomic bomb, the Archbishop of the first city to suffer an atomic blast, Mgr Joseph Atsumi Misue, recalled the "always topical" words Pope John Paul II spoken during his visit to Hiroshima's Peace Memorial on February 25, 1981: "War is the work of human beings. War is destruction of human life. War is death. . . . To remember the past is to commit oneself to the future. To remember Hiroshima is to commit oneself to peace."

According to the prelate, "starting with the late Pontiff's teachings, we must pray together because it is by becoming apostles of peace that we can build together a peaceful world".

Archbishop Misue also addressed the young.

"I invite all the young people to the mass commemorating the atomic bomb," he said. "By re-examining their own life, they have a responsibility to be the first apostles of peace.

In Nagasaki commemorative events will reach a climax on August 9 with a mass celebrated by Archbishop Takami in the Peace Park.

In Urakami parish church, the public will be able to see the so-called 'Bombed Madonna', that is the blackened head of a statue of the Virgin Mary that survived the A-bomb blast just 500 metres away that flattened the church. (MA)

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