US bishops call for prayers to mark 75th year of Hiroshima, Nagasaki bombings

A file image of Nagasaki Catholics praying for atomic bomb victims during a Mass to mark the 74th anniversary of the atomic bombing at the end of World War II, on Aug. 9, 2019. (Photo by Jiji Press/AFP)

Catholic bishops in the United States called on the faithful this week to pray for peace ahead of the 75th anniversary of the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

In a statement released on July 13, the bishops’ Committee for International Justice and Peace also renewed their call for the “disarmament of nuclear weapons.”

The bishops noted ongoing “geopolitical conflicts with state and non-state actors, increasingly sophisticated weapons, and the erosion of international arms control frameworks.”

During his visit to Japan in November last year, Pope Francis said a “world of peace, free from nuclear weapons, is the aspiration of millions of men and women everywhere.”

He said the response to the threat of nuclear weapons should be “joint and concerted” and inspired by the “arduous yet constant effort to build mutual trust” to overcome the “current climate of distrust.”

In their statement, the U.S. bishop re-affirmed the Holy Father’s call for “renewed effort to bring about a world of peace and justice that is not based upon fear or the threat of nuclear annihilation but justice and human solidarity.”

“Fear, distrust, and conflict must be supplanted by our joint commitment, by faith and in prayer, that peace and justice reign now and forever,” the bishops said in the statement.

On Aug. 9, 1945, a nuclear bomb was dropped on Nagasaki, three days after another bomb was dropped on Hiroshima.

In the Nagasaki explosion about 70,000 people died instantly and in the immediate aftermath, and another 75,000 by the end of the month.

When the bomb was dropped, 8,500 of the city’s 12,000 Catholics were killed instantly.

A cross and statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary, damaged in the strike, were recently found in the Cathedral of Nagasaki.

Pope Francis said these images “remind us once more of the unspeakable horror suffered in the flesh by the victims of the bombing and their families.”

Since St. John Paul II visited Japan in 1981, the Catholic Church in Japan has observed Ten Days of Prayer for Peace beginning Aug. 6.