Hiroshima and Nagasaki Mayors Plead for a Nuclear Weapons Free World

Interpress Service
By Ramesh Jaura

The mayor of Nagasaki, Tomihisa Taue, presents the Nagasaki Peace Declaration, saying that “rather than envisioning a nuclear-free world as a faraway dream, we must quickly decide to solve this issue by working towards the abolition of these weapons, fulfilling the promise made to global society”. Credit: YouTube
The mayor of Nagasaki, Tomihisa Taue, presents the Nagasaki Peace Declaration, saying that “rather than envisioning a nuclear-free world as a faraway dream, we must quickly decide to solve this issue by working towards the abolition of these weapons, fulfilling the promise made to global society”. Credit: YouTube

BERLIN/TOKYO, Aug 10 2015 (IPS) – Seventy years after the brutal and militarily unwarranted atomic bombings of the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on Aug. 6 and 9, a nuclear weapons free world is far from within reach.

Commemorating the two events, the mayors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki made impassioned pleas for heeding the experiences of the survivors of the atomic bombings and the growing worldwide awareness of the compelling need for complete abolition of such weapons.

The atomic bombings in 1945 destroyed the two cities, and more than 200,000 people died of nuclear radiation, shockwaves from the blasts and thermal radiation. Over 400,000 have died since the end of the war, from the after-effects of the bombs.

“Our world still bristles with more than 15,000 nuclear weapons, and policy-makers in the nuclear-armed states remain trapped in provincial thinking, repeating by word and deed their nuclear intimidation” – Kazumi Matsui, mayor of Hiroshima

As of Mar. 31, 2015, the Japanese government had recognised 183,519 as ‘hibakusha’ (explosion-affected people), most of them living in Japan. Japan’s Atomic Bomb Survivors Relief Law defines hibakusha as people who were: within a few kilometres of the hypocentres of the bombs; within 2 km of the hypocentres within two weeks of the bombings; exposed to radiation from fallout; or not yet born but carried by pregnant women in any of these categories.

During the commemorative events in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, reports in several newspapers confirmed that those bombings were militarily unwarranted.

Gar Alperovitz, formerly Lionel R. Bauman Professor of Political Economy at the University of Maryland, wrote in The Nation that that “the war was won before Hiroshima – and the generals who dropped the bomb knew it.”

He quoted Adm. William Leahy, President Harry S. Truman’s Chief of Staff, who wrote in his 1950 memoir ‘I Was There’ [that] “the use of this barbarous weapon at Hiroshima and Nagasaki was of no material assistance in our war against Japan. The Japanese were already defeated and ready to surrender …”

Gen. Dwight Eisenhower, the U.S. president from 1953 until 1961, shared this view. He was a five-star general in the United States Army during World War II and served as Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in Europe.

Eisenhower stated in his memoirs that when notified by Secretary of War Henry Stimson of the decision to use atomic weapons, he “voiced to him my grave misgivings, first on the basis of my belief that Japan was already defeated and that dropping the bomb was completely unnecessary.”

Even the famous “hawk” Maj. Gen. Curtis LeMay, head of the Twenty-First Bomber Command, went public the month after the bombing, telling the press that “the atomic bomb had nothing to do with the end of the war at all,” wrote Alperovitz.

“The peoples of this world must unite or they will perish,” warned Robert Oppenheimer, widely considered the father of the bomb, as he called on politicians to place the terrifying power of the atom under strict international control.

Oppenheimer’s call has yet to be followed.

In his fervent address on Aug. 6, Kazumi Matsui, mayor of the City of Hiroshima, said: “Our world still bristles with more than 15,000 nuclear weapons, and policy-makers in the nuclear-armed states remain trapped in provincial thinking, repeating by word and deed their nuclear intimidation.”

He added: “We now know about the many incidents and accidents that have taken us to the brink of nuclear war or nuclear explosions. Today, we worry as well about nuclear terrorism.”

As long as nuclear weapons exist, he warned, anyone could become a hibakusha at any time. If that happens, the damage would reach indiscriminately beyond national borders. “People of the world, please listen carefully to the words of the hibakusha and, profoundly accepting the spirit of Hiroshima, contemplate the nuclear problem as your own,” he exhorted.

As president of Mayors for Peace, comprising mayors from more than 6,700 member cities, Kazumi Matsui vowed: “Hiroshima will act with determination, doing everything in our power to accelerate the international trend toward negotiations for a nuclear weapons convention and abolition of nuclear weapons by 2020.”

This, he said, was the first step toward nuclear weapons abolition. The next step would be to create, through the trust thus won, broadly versatile security systems that do not depend on military might.

“Working with patience and perseverance to achieve those systems will be vital, and will require that we promote throughout the world the path to true peace revealed by the pacifism of the Japanese Constitution,” he added.

“We call on the Japanese government, in its role as bridge between the nuclear- and non-nuclear-weapon states, to guide all states toward these discussions, and we offer Hiroshima as the venue for dialogue and outreach,” the mayor of Hiroshima said.

In the Nagasaki Peace Declaration issued on Aug. 9, Nagasaki mayor Tomihisa Taue asked the Japanese government and Parliament to “fix your sights on the future, and please consider a conversion from a ‘nuclear umbrella’ to a ‘non-nuclear umbrella’.”

Japan does not possess any atomic weapons and is protected, like South Korea and Germany, as well as most of the NATO member states, by the U.S. nuclear umbrella.

Failure of Review Conference Brings World Close to Nuclear Cataclysm, Warn Activists
He appealed to the Japanese government to explore national security measures, which do not rely on nuclear deterrence. “The establishment of a ‘Northeast Asia Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone (NEA-NWFZ),’ as advocated by researchers in America, Japan, Korea, China, and many other countries, would make this possible,” he said.

Referring to the Japanese Parliament “currently deliberating a bill, which will determine how our country guarantees its security”, he said: “There is widespread unease and concern that the oath which was engraved onto our hearts 70 years ago and the peaceful ideology of the Constitution of Japan are now wavering. I urge the Government and the Diet to listen to these voices of unease and concern, concentrate their wisdom, and conduct careful and sincere deliberations.”

The Nagasaki Peace Declaration noted that the peaceful ideology of the Constitution of Japan was born from painful and harsh experiences, and from reflection on the war. “Since the war, our country has walked the path of a peaceful nation. For the sake of Nagasaki, and for the sake of all of Japan, we must never change the peaceful principle that we renounce war,” the declaration said.

The Nagasaki mayor regretted that the Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) held at the United Nations earlier this year had struggled with reaching agreement on a Final Document.

However, said Taue, the efforts of those countries which were attempting to ban nuclear weapons had made possible a draft Final Document “which incorporated steps towards nuclear disarmament.”

He urged the heads of NPT member states not to allow the NPT Review Conference “to have been a waste”. Instead, they should continue their efforts to debate a legal framework, such as a ‘Nuclear Weapons Convention (NWC),’ at every opportunity, including at the General Assembly of the United Nations.

Many countries at the Review Conference were in agreement that it was important to visit the atomic-bombed cities of Nagasaki and Hiroshima.

Against this backdrop, the Nagasaki mayor appealed to “President [Barack] Obama, heads of state, including the heads of the nuclear weapon states, and all the people of the world … (to) please come to Nagasaki and Hiroshima, and see for yourself exactly what happened under those mushroom clouds 70 years ago.”

No U.S. president has ever attended the any event to commemorate the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Rose Gottemoeller was the highest-ranking U.S. official at the Aug. 6 ceremony. She was reported as saying that nuclear weapons should never be used again.

Edited by Phil Harris

Message from Japanese Bishops 70 Years after the War

Catholic News Service

Mount Fuji, Japan
Mount Fuji, Japan

Japan’s Catholic Bishops have issued the following statement to mark the 70th anniversary of World War Two. Blessed are the peacemakers – Now especially, peace must not depend upon weapons.

To our Brothers and Sisters in Christ and to All Who Wish for Peace

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Japan issued messages marking the end of the Second World War in 1995 (Resolution for Peace — On the 50th. Anniversary of the End of the War) and 2005 (Peace Message After 60 Years From the End of War World II — The Road To Peace Based On Nonviolence — Now Is The Time To Be Prophetic). In this year in which we mark the 70th anniversary of the end of the war, we wish to once again declare our commitment to peace.

1. The Church Cannot Remain Silent in the Face of Threats to Human Life and Dignity

For the Catholic Church, this is a noteworthy year because it marks the 50th anniversary of the closing of the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965).
In the first half of the Twentieth Century the Christian Church centered in Europe experienced two world wars and genocide against the Jews by Nazi Germany. Reflecting on these tragedies, the Church cannot close itself up with merely “religious” concerns. We have realized that the problems of humanity are our problems. The Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, Gaudium et Spes, issued at the end of the Second Vatican Council, is a clear example of this insight, opening with the following words.

“The joys and the hopes, the griefs and the anxieties of the men of this age, especially those who are poor or in any way afflicted, these are the joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties of the followers of Christ. Indeed, nothing genuinely human fails to raise an echo in their hearts.

From the end of the Second Vatican Council up to the papacy of Pope Francis today, the Church has actively faced the issues of human life and dignity, especially of those who are excluded or oppressed.

2. The Decision to Renounce War

Japanese colonial rule on the Korean Peninsula until 1945 as well as acts of aggression against China and other Asian countries caused great suffering and sacrifice among people. The Second World War was a horrible experience for the Japanese people as well. Beginning with the Tokyo air raid of March 10, 1945, large-scale air raids struck many cities in Japan. In addition to the many Japanese and foreign troops who became casualties during land combat on Okinawa, many civilians suffered as well. Then finally there were the atomic bombings of Hiroshima on August 6 and Nagasaki on August 9, 1945. These experiences gave birth to a desire for peace that was codified in the Constitution of Japan promulgated in 1946 based on the sovereignty of the people, the renunciation of war and respect for basic human rights. Following this peace constitution, Japan has striven to build relationships of trust and friendship with the nations of Asia.

Against the background of the Cold War and the subsequent fall of the Berlin Wall, the Catholic Church throughout the world has made increasingly clear its opposition to the arms race and the use of weapons to resolve disputes.

In his encyclical Pacem in Terris, Pope John XXIII said, “in this age which boasts of its atomic power, it no longer makes sense to maintain that war is a fit instrument with which to repair the violation of justice” Vatican II in Gaudiam et Spes opposed the arms race, and urged peace that does not rely upon military force. In his Appeal for Peace in Hiroshima in 1981, Pope John Paul II demonstrated this clear renunciation of war when he said, “War is the work of man. War is destruction of human life. War is death.”

Given this historical background, it is a matter of course that we Japanese bishops respect the ideals of Japan’s no-war Constitution For Christians, the renunciation of war is demanded by the Gospel of Christ. It is a respect for life that cannot be abandoned by religious people and an ideal that is held firmly by the whole human race.

3. The Japanese Church’s peace vocation

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Japan knows that it has a special vocation to work for peace. It is not based upon any political ideology. We continue to appeal for peace not as a political issue, but as a human one. Our awareness of this vocation is, of course, influenced by the horrors inflicted by nuclear weapons on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but it is also born of deep remorse when we reflect upon the attitude of the Church in Japan before and during the war.

During a Mass celebrated on September 26, 1986, at the plenary meeting of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC) held in Tokyo, Archbishop Shirayanagi of Tokyo made the following declaration. “We Catholic bishops of Japan, as Japanese, and as members of the Catholic Church in Japan, sincerely ask forgiveness from God and from our brothers and sisters of Asia and the Pacific Region for the tragedy brought by the Japanese during the Second World War. As parties involved in the war, we share in the responsibility for the more than 20 million victims in Asia and the Pacific. Furthermore, we deeply regret having damaged the lives and cultures of the people of these regions. The trauma of this is still not healed.”

These words were not those of a single bishop. He spoke as president of the bishops’ conference, conveying the opinion of the whole conference. As mentioned above, in their messages on the 50th and 60th anniversaries of the end of the war, the bishops continued to reflect upon the issue of the Church’s responsibility before and during the war and from that standpoint have expressed their determination in favor of peace.

4. Problems such as recognition of history and the exercise of collective self-defense
Seventy years after the war, memory of it is fading along with memories of Japanese colonial rule and aggression with its accompanying crimes against humanity. Now, there are calls to rewrite the history of that time, denying what really happened. The present government is attempting to enact laws to protect state secrets, allow for the right of collective self-defense and change Article 9 of the Constitution to allow the use of military force overseas.

At the same time, we cannot overlook growing nationalism not only in Japan, but among the governments of other countries in this part of the world. As tensions rise between nations, a strong commitment to improved relations through dialogue and negotiation rather than increased militarization becomes more important for regional stability.

Domestically, the situation in Okinawa presents a particularly serious problem. Compared to the rest of the country, the number of military bases there is especially high. New base construction is underway, contrary to the wishes of the citizens of the prefecture. This demonstrates an attitude that puts priority on armaments while ignoring people and efforts to build peace.

5. Amidst the serious crises facing the world today

Viewing the world today, the tragedies of military conflict and terrorism occur over and over again in many places. In addition to conflicts between nations and ethnic groups, now violence in the name of religion makes it increasingly seem as if throughout the world dialogue has become impossible. In that situation, women and children as well as ethnic and religious minorities are especially threatened and many lose their lives.

In the face of such worldwide destructiveness, Pope Francis has expressed concern that some people seem to speak of a “Third World War” rather than making sure we do not repeat the mistakes of the past. The world faces the sorts of crises that cannot but cause people to wonder if force is the answer.

What has become of respect for humanity? However, repeatedly answering violence with violence will only lead to the destruction of humanity.

The world is dominated by the globalization of companies and the financial system. Disparities continue to widen and the poor are excluded. Human economic activity is causing climate change and the destruction of biodiversity. If we wish to realize peace, this situation must change. We cannot ignore the problems of poverty and the environment that produce disparity and exclusion. We are each called upon to overcome our indifference to the world’s problems and change our lives. We cannot solve all the world’s problems at once, but we can patiently continue to work toward peace and mutual understanding.

In Conclusion

We recall the words of Pope John Paul II in his Appeal for Peace in Hiroshima: “Peace must always be the aim: peace pursued and protected in all circumstances. Let us not repeat the past, a past of violence and destruction. Let us embark upon the steep and difficult path of peace, the only path that befits human dignity, the only path that leads to the true fulfillment of the human destiny, the only path to a future in which equity, justice and solidarity are realities and not just distant dreams.”

We are encouraged by the words of Jesus Christ, “Blessed are the peacemakers” (Mt. 5:9). Seventy years after the end of the war and 50 years after the end of the Second Vatican Council, let us renew our determination to seek peace and to work for peace. We Catholics in Japan are small in number, but in union with other Christians and along with believers of other religions and those throughout the world who wish for peace, we renew our commitment to work to make peace a reality.

Pope Francis announces World Day of Prayer for Care of Creation

Independent Catholic News

The Blue Marble -- taken during Apollo 17 lunar mission 1972. (Google Image/unknown)
The Blue Marble — taken during Apollo 17 lunar mission 1972. (Google Image/unknown)

Pope Francis has decided to establish a ‘World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation’ which will be celebrated on 1st September each year. The announcement was made in a letter to the heads of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity.

The official English translation of the letter follows below:

To my Venerable Brothers

Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah TURKSON, President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace

Cardinal Kurt KOCH, President of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity

Sharing with my beloved brother the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew his concerns for the future of creation (cfr Encylical Letter. Laudato Si, 7-9) and taking up the suggestion by his representative, the Metropolitan Ioannis of Pergamum who took part in the presentation of the Encyclical Laudato Si on the care of our common home, I wish to inform you that I have decided to set up also in the Catholic Church, the “World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation” which, beginning this year, will be celebrated on the 1st of September, as the Orthodox Church has done for some time now.

As Christians we wish to offer our contribution towards overcoming the ecological crisis which humanity is living through. Therefore, first of all we must draw from our rich spiritual heritage the reasons which feed our passion for the care of creation, always remembering that for believers in Jesus Christ, the Word of God who became man for us, “the life of the spirit is not dissociated from the body or from nature or from worldly realities, but lived in and with them, in communion with all that surrounds us.” (ibid., 216). The ecological crisis therefore calls us to a profound spiritual conversion: Christians are called to “an ecological conversion whereby the effects of their encounter with Jesus Christ become evident in their relationship with the world around them.” (ibid., 217). Thus, “living our vocation to be protectors of God’s handiwork is essential to a life of virtue; it is not an optional or a secondary aspect of our Christian experience.”(ibid).

The annual World Day of prayer for the Care of Creation offers to individual believers and to the community a precious opportunity to renew our personal participation in this vocation as custodians of creation, raising to God our thanks for the marvellous works that He has entrusted to our care, invoking his help for the protection of creation and his mercy for the sins committed against the world in which we live. The celebration of the Day on the same date as the Orthodox Church will be a valuable opportunity to bear witness to our growing communion with our orthodox brothers. We live in a time where all Christians are faced with identical and important challenges and we must give common replies to these in order to appear more credible and effective. Therefore it is my hope that this Day can involve, in some way, other Churches and ecclesial Communities and be celebrated in union with the initiatives that the World Council of Churches is promoting on this issue.

Cardinal Turkson, as President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, I asking you to inform the Justice and Peace Commissions of the Bishops’ Conferences, as well as the national and international Organizations involved in environmental issues about the establishment of the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation, so that in union with the needs and the local situation , this celebration can be rightly marked with the participation of the entire People of God: priests, men and women religious and the lay faithful. For this reason, it will be the task of this Dicastery, in collaboration with the Episcopal Conferences to set up relevant initiatives to promote and illustrate this Day, so that this annual celebration becomes a powerful moment of prayer, reflection, conversion and the adoption of appropriate life styles.

Cardinal Koch, as President of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity, I’m asking you to make the necessary contacts with the Ecumenical Patriarchate and with the other ecumenical organisations so that this World Day can become the sign of a path along all believers in Christ walk together. It will also be your Dicastery’s task to take care of the coordination with similar initiatives set up by the World Council of Churches.

Whilst I look forward to the widest possible cooperation for the best start and development of the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation, I invoke the intercession of Mary, the Mother of God and of St. Francis of Assisi, whose Canticle of the Creatures inspires so many men and women of goodwill to live in praise of the Creator and with respect for creation. I support this pledge along with my Apostolic Blessing which I impart with all my heart to you, my dear Cardinals, and to all those who collaborate in your ministry.

From the Vatican, 6th August 2015
Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord.

A trinity of a different kind on the pope’s U.S. agenda

Catholic News Service
By Rhina Guidos, Catholic News Service

Pope Francis gestures as he talks during a special audience with members of the Eucharistic Youth Movement in Paul VI hall at the Vatican Aug. 7. (CNS photo/Tony Gentile, Reuters)
Pope Francis gestures as he talks during a special audience with members of the Eucharistic Youth Movement in Paul VI hall at the Vatican Aug. 7. (CNS photo/Tony Gentile, Reuters)

WASHINGTON (CNS) — Expect to hear the pope take on immigration, hunger and the environment when he visits in September, said three policy advisers helping reporters in Washington prepare for the pontiff’s upcoming visit.

“This is a pope that doesn’t hesitate to enter difficult areas and waters,” said Demetrios Papademetriou. president emeritus of the Migration Policy Institute, a Washington think tank, and one of three panelists at a briefing on “Covering the Pope: Policy and Politics.”

These “happen to be three of the most contentious, most debated, stickiest issues that Capitol Hill and the country have dealt with in the last … several decades,” said Jason Dick, an editor at CQ Roll Call, who moderated the Aug. 3 panel at Washington’s Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

Pope Francis will speak “in a very clear way” about issues “that lots of people will want to hear” him address, said Papademetriou, a former senior policy adviser on immigration and refugee issues to the U.S. Catholic bishops. Particularly, he will talk about what some call “illegal” immigration but “he’ll call it undocumented, unauthorized, unregulated” mass migration, Papademetriou said.

“It’s not about all immigration, it’s about immigration of the poor, immigration of the persecuted, immigration of the people who seemingly have no other choice but to go elsewhere in order to create a life for themselves,” Papademetriou said.
And his focus will be on issues of protection of people, mainly refugees and temporarily protected people.

“These have always been the foci of the (Catholic) church’s concern with migration,” Papademetriou said. “The church … they argue for protection, for saving lives, for treating people properly, for not taking advantage, and exploiting people, (the church) argues strongly against discrimination.”

Yet when it comes to this topic, Papademetriou said, “I’m not quite sure whether the U.S. Congress, or at least those people in the U.S. Congress, who have been unable or unwilling to reach any agreement … that it will influence them in one way or another.”
Panelist Lisa Marsh Ryerson, president of AARP Foundation, said the papal visit will help shine a light on a key issue for the pope, namely hunger, which affects the poor in the United States

“He speaks on many occasions about dignity for all people,” she said. And when the pope brings up the topic of hunger, it will help ask and answer questions such as: “Why, in a land of such abundance, where we are producing food, do we have such a persistent disconnect between the food supply chain and those who are hungry?”

Kalee Kreider, policy adviser for climate science at the United Nations Foundation, said the three issues — hunger, the environment and immigration — are connected and encouraged reporters for secular news organizations to read “Laudato Si’, on Care for Our Common Home” to get a taste of the case the pope will make and how he touches on the three topics.

“The pope makes clear that poverty, climate change are not two different things,” said Kreider, a former environmental adviser and communications director for Vice President Al Gore.

These issues, she said, have been addressed by the Catholic Church and by previous popes for decades. But Pope Francis’ encyclical hits a particular time, a “tipping point,” that history will recall, she said.

She described it as part of an “arc” that began Aug. 3, when U.S. President Barack Obama unveiled the “Clean Power Plan,” a pledge by his administration to reduce the country’s carbon dioxide emissions and combat climate change. It continues with the pope’s message on the environment during his visit to the United States in September and whose influence may result, as environmentalists hope, in some form of global action during the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Paris in late 2015.

History will ask whether given the force behind the three events — a major world power promising to curb CO2 emissions, a major faith leader calling for better care of the earth by humans, and the meeting of international leaders agreeing on worldwide reduction of greenhouse gases — humanity was able to take urgent action on climate change, Kreider said.

She said she shared the sentiment of panelist Papademetriou: “I agree that the pope’s influence will largely be on the broader public,” and not on politicians who will make decisions for the country, she said. But sometimes it takes the public’s sentiment to influence change carried out by Congress and the influence of the pontiff’s visit and its message may not be seen until next year, she said.

“What will be intriguing, to me,” she said, “is whether we do see a softening on some of these flashpoint issues. … It won’t be until general election that we’ll actually start to see (the) impact of a visit like this.”

While August in Washington tends to be a sleepy time, with Congress recessed and denizens on summer vacation, the pope’s September visit has made this a month of preparation, of reading encyclicals, studying the pope’s speeches, and, for some, brushing up on their Spanish-language skills since the pontiff is expected to make many of his speeches in his native tongue.

More than 7,000 individuals and 600 organizations have applied for credentials or space to cover events for Pope Francis’ U.S. visit — even as his approval numbers are down.

Last year, 76 percent viewed the pope favorably, according to a Gallup poll, compared to 59 percent this year.

“One could argue that this decline is probably based on his encyclical and a bit about his message about poverty,” said William Douglas, congressional correspondent for McClatchy Newspapers.

But the pope is intent on getting his message across, said Papademetriou, no matter how uncomfortable it may be for some.

“He expects people to engage,” he said. “He wants to force people to engage those big issues from a far broader perspective that goes well beyond Catholic teaching, as it were.”

Brazil: Pilgrimage to heart of the Amazon to remember Sr Dorothy Stang

Independent Catholic News

Sister Dorothy Stang, SNDdeN
Sister Dorothy Stang, SNDdeN

A group of priests, religious and laypeople has completed a long trek to the heart of the Amazon to mark the tenth anniversary of the assassination of Sister Dorothy Stang, who dedicated her life to the people there and the protection of their home, the Amazon jungle – the ‘lungs of the world’. The mission, from the Archdiocese of Mariana, in the Prelature of Xingu, in Pará, lasted 15 days.

One of the participants, Father Anthony Claret, said: “Sister Dorothy is present through the struggle of the people. These are people of faith who seek to organize and live the same continuous struggle. And for us who come from the archdiocese of Mariana, that is a great inspiration.”

The mission had as its theme “The seed planted germinates: we are Sister Dorothy”.

The Pontifical Missionary Society Brazil said the three words that guided the 55 km pilgrimage were: “memory, commitment and hope.” The pilgrimage took place during the last week of July and ended in the place where Sister Dorothy Stang was murdered.

The pilgrimage was organized to raise awareness on the need to preserve the Amazon rainforest and remember Sister Dorothy Stang, 10 years after her assassination, the nun in defense of the Amazon forest, the lung of humanity.

In message to Iraqi refugees, pope condemns world’s silence

Catholic News Service
By Cindy Wooden Catholic News Service

An Iraqi Christian child who fled from violence in Mosul, Iraq, lies on a bed in 2014 at a church in Amman, Jordan. The world continues to be silent in the face of widespread persecution of Christians and other religious minorities, Pope Francis said. (CNS photo/Jamal Nasrallah, EPA) See POPE-IRAQIS Aug. 6, 2015.
An Iraqi Christian child who fled from violence in Mosul, Iraq, lies on a bed in 2014 at a church in Amman, Jordan. The world continues to be silent in the face of widespread persecution of Christians and other religious minorities, Pope Francis said. (CNS photo/Jamal Nasrallah, EPA) See POPE-IRAQIS Aug. 6, 2015.

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The world continues to be silent in the face of widespread persecution of Christians and other religious minorities, Pope Francis said.

One year after Islamic State militants drove thousands of Iraqi Christians and Yezidis out of the country, Pope Francis prayed that people around the world would be more attentive and sensitive to the reality of religious persecution and that “the international community would not stand by mute and unresponsive before such unacceptable crimes.”

The pope sent his message to Iraqi refugees who fled to Jordan after the Islamic State campaign in August 2014 sent tens of thousands of people fleeing their homes in the Ninevah Plain of northern Iraq.

According to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, more than 57,000 Iraqis have been given refuge in Jordan.

In his letter, which was released Aug. 6 at the Vatican, Pope Francis thanked those “who took on the care of these brothers and sisters, not turning their gaze away.”

The Christian communities in Jordan who are assisting the refugees “proclaim the resurrection of Christ by sharing their suffering and giving them aid,” he said. “You bow down to their suffering, which risks suffocating hope.”

The pope’s message of consolation and encouragement was sent with Bishop Nunzio Galantino, secretary-general of the Italian bishops’ conference, who traveled to Amman, Jordan, Aug. 6 to visit Iraqi refugees there and to attend a prayer service Aug. 8 “to remember the first large exodus of persecuted Christians.”

Pope Francis said he wanted to take advantage of the bishop’s trip to offer “a word of hope to those, oppressed by violence, who were forced to abandon their homes and their land.”

Too many times, in too many parts of the world, he said, “atrocious, inhuman and inexplicable persecution” of Christians and other minorities takes place “under the eyes and with the silence of all.”

The victims of “fanaticism and intolerance” are today’s martyrs, he said, murdered only for their fidelity to Christ.

Pope Francis said he hoped his words and his latest message would be “the sign of a church that does not forget and does not abandon its children who were exiled because of their faith.”

The pope said he prays for the refugees each day and recognizes “the witness of faith they offer us.”

In Japan, U.S. bishop says USCCB will push for nuclear disarmament

Catholic News Service
By Paul Jeffrey, Catholic News Service

Prayer for peace on 70th anniversary of Hiroshima bombing Prayer for peace on 70th anniversary of Hiroshima bombing Prayer for peace on 70th anniversary of Hiroshima bombing Japanese girl displays folded paper cranes during 70th anniversary of Hiroshima bombing Christians march to Catholic Memorial Cathedral for World Peace in Hiroshima during commemoration of atomic bomb drop Girl displays folded paper cranes for 70th anniversary of Hiroshima bombing.

People pray at a memorial in Hiroshima, Japan, Aug. 6, to commemorate the victims of the atomic bombing of the city by the United States in 1945. Delegation members from the World Council of Churches, in Hiroshima for the commemoration, said they would return home to build a movement to rid the world of nuclear weapons. (CNS photo/Paul Jeffrey)
People pray at a memorial in Hiroshima, Japan, Aug. 6, to commemorate the victims of the atomic bombing of the city by the United States in 1945. Delegation members from the World Council of Churches, in Hiroshima for the commemoration, said they would return home to build a movement to rid the world of nuclear weapons. (CNS photo/Paul Jeffrey)

HIROSHIMA, Japan (CNS) — For a long minute on a sunny morning, silence fell over the memorial park that commemorates the Aug. 6, 1945, atomic bombing of the city.

A gong sounded repeatedly as local residents and visitors from around the world stopped to remember a similarly sunny morning 70 years ago when a fireball ripped apart the skies.

Among the visitors to Hiroshima was Bishop Oscar Cantu of Las Cruces, New Mexico. It was the bishop’s first visit to Japan, and he said he was moved by what he saw and heard from Japanese Catholics, who have been adamant in demanding an end to nuclear weapons.

“It’s important for an American delegation to be here with the Japanese in this moment, because we celebrate the efforts they have made for peace, and we stand in solidarity with them. They are part of a church that around the world has spoken against the proliferation of nuclear weapons, a message that here is directed particularly at the United States,” Bishop Cantu told Catholic News Service.

“So although our countries were enemies 70 years ago, we have become allies in this effort. We do, however, recognize that there’s movement in Japan toward building up their military capabilities again. We caution against that, and we stand with the bishops of Japan in opposing that,” he said.

Bishop Cantu, who serves as chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace, said that as a U.S. citizen, he arrived in Hiroshima with a sense of “sorrow and repentance.”

He also was to travel to Nagasaki, the second Japanese city on which the U.S. dropped an atomic bomb, for similar ceremonies Aug. 9.

“The Japanese bishops have much to teach us. I was heartened to read their statement from earlier this year in which, on behalf of all Japanese, they repented for the harm they did to people of the region (in the wars). That attitude allows us to start moving forward,” he said.

Following a Mass that marked the bombing’s anniversary at the Catholic Memorial Cathedral for World Peace, Bishop Cantu spoke to the congregation about the work that U.S. bishops are doing to ensure that the world will experience no more Hiroshimas.

The bishop said that since the end of the Cold War in 1991, Americans think little about nuclear weapons and the threat they pose. The recent agreement negotiated by the several countries with Iran “puts nuclear weapons in the forefront of political debate after years of being an afterthought in the minds of most Americans,” he said.
For many of his generation, Bishop Cantu said, “the return to a serious discussion of nuclear disarmament may seem like an outdated exercise. Sadly, it is not.”

He cited the nuclear threats of Russia over Ukraine and Russia’s announcement in June that it is boosting its nuclear arsenal by putting 40 new intercontinental ballistic missiles into service. He said those developments have lent fuel to hawks in the U.S. Congress, who in turn want to modernize the U.S. arsenal, replacing old weapons systems they claim are obsolete. Such an attitude likely reflects changing public opinion in the U.S., he said, noting that opinion polls show declining support for reducing nuclear arsenals.
That means the U.S. bishops, who have for decades argued for reducing and eliminating nuclear weapons, have major work ahead, he said.

“The task of the U.S. bishops is to convince the majority of Americans … that they need to support the vision of a world without nuclear weapons. They need to believe that such a goal is possible,” he said.

But the bishops cannot go it alone and have often partnered with others with similar interests in peace, he explained.

“Happily, our partners in nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament are not confined to just the religious community in the United States. There are scientists, politicians, business and military leaders, academics, and civil society activists who have joined this effort,” he said.

Yet the bishop warned that the struggle against nuclear weapons in the U.S. has encountered difficulties of late in Washington’s hot political climate. Given what he called the “increased political polarization within our Congress,” all signs indicate the road to authentic disarmament will be long and difficult, but Bishop Cantu pledged that the U.S. bishops will continue “to fight the good fight to eliminate nuclear weapons.”