Pope Francis has condemned the “evil” bombings of Nagasaki and Hiroshima, calling the attacks a “tragic episode in human history.”
“I will soon visit Nagasaki and Hiroshima, where I will offer prayers for the victims of the catastrophic bombing of these two cities, and echo your own prophetic calls for nuclear disarmament,” the pope told an assembly of the nation’s bishops in Tokyo Saturday evening, shortly after his arrival in the country.
“I wish to meet those who still bear the wounds of this tragic episode in human history, as well as the victims of the triple disaster,” he said. “Their continued sufferings are an eloquent reminder of our human and Christian duty to assist those who are troubled in body and spirit, and to offer to all the Gospel message of hope, healing and reconciliation.”
“Evil has no preferences; it does not care about people’s background or identity,” he continued. “It simply bursts in with its destructive force, as was the case recently with the devastating typhoon that caused so many casualties and material damage.”
This past week, Francis sent a video message to the people of Japan, denouncing the use of nuclear weapons as “immoral” just prior to his departure for a six-day visit to Asia, including Thailand and Japan.
“Your country is very aware of the suffering caused by war,” said the pope in reference to the U.S. bombing of Nagasaki and Hiroshima in August 1945. “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 chosen for the pope’s visit is “Protect All Life,” and Francis said that this message assumes “particular importance in the face of threats to the peaceful coexistence that the world has to face today, especially in armed conflicts.”
The Vatican’s secretary of state, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, said this month that Pope Francis will call for “the total elimination of nuclear weapons” when he visits Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
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 postcards featuring the photo of a Japanese boy carrying his dead brother after the U.S. bombing of Nagasaki. It included his personal message: “the fruit of war” and had the Pope’s signature, “Franciscus.”
“So it is necessary to destroy the weapons, let’s strive for nuclear disarmament,” Francis told journalists at the time.