ROME — Pope Francis has sent a video-message to the people of Japan condemning the use of nuclear weapons prior to his upcoming three-day visit to the country.
“Your country is very aware of the suffering caused by war,” said the pope, who will visit Japan from November 23-26. “Together with you, I pray that the destructive power of nuclear weapons will never be unleashed again in human history.”
“Using nuclear weapons is immoral,” he said, speaking in his native Spanish.
The theme for the papal visit is “Protect All Life” and the pope said that the instinct to defend the value and dignity of every human person resonates in the human heart, acquiring “particular importance in the face of threats to the peaceful coexistence that the world has to face today, especially in armed conflicts.”
“You know how important is that culture of dialogue, of fraternity, especially among the different religious traditions, that can help overcome division, promote respect for human dignity and advance the integral development of all peoples,” Francis said.
The pontiff said he trusts his visit “will encourage you on the path of mutual respect and of the encounter that leads to a safe and lasting peace that does not retreat.”
The Vatican’s number-two man, Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin, said earlier this month that Pope Francis will call for “the total elimination of nuclear weapons” when he visits Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
During his visit, Pope Francis will deliver his message at the “hypocenter” park in Nagasaki and will hold a meeting for peace that same day at the peace memorial in Hiroshima.
When the pope visits Japan, “he will not fail to make the strongest appeal possible for concerted steps toward the total elimination of nuclear weapons,” Cardinal Parolin said.
Last year, the pope distributed anti-war postcards featuring the photo of a Japanese boy and his brother after the 1945 U.S. bombing of Nagasaki, with his personal message: “the fruit of war.”
The image on the card shows a boy carrying his dead brother strapped to his back while waiting in line at a crematorium. On the back of the card are the words “the fruit of war,” together with the Pope’s signature “Franciscus.”
“So it is necessary to destroy the weapons, let’s strive for nuclear disarmament,” Francis told journalists.