Thursday marked exactly 75 years since 6 August 1945, the day humanity felt for the first time the devastating power of nuclear weapons, in the bombing of Hiroshima. Ever seeking that such “destruction of human life and property” never be repeated, Pope Francis again condemned both the use and possession of nuclear weapons as “immoral”, as he had stated on 24 November 2019 before the Peace Memorial erected in the Japanese city to preserve the memory of that horror. He shared these thoughts in a letter written in English and addressed to Hidehiko Yuzaki, Governor of Hiroshima Prefecture, on the occasion of the annual memorial celebrations of the catastrophe. In his letter, addressing the organizers and participants, and in particular the hibakusha — survivors — the Pope solemnly acknowledged the suffering of the victims, as he had done at the Hypocenter Park in Nagasaki, the second martyred city devastated on 9 August 1945, to keep alive and ever present the reflection on “those terrible days of war three quarters of a century ago”.
“Just as I came to Japan as a pilgrim of peace last year”, the Holy Father wrote, “so I continue to hold in my heart the longing of the peoples of our time, especially of young people, who thirst for peace and make sacrifices for peace”. Moreover, he added, “I carry too the cry of the poor, who are always among the first victims of violence and conflict”. Noting that “it has never been clearer that, for peace to flourish, all people need to lay down the weapons of war”, especially “the most powerful and destructive of weapons: nuclear arms, that can cripple and destroy whole cities, whole countries”, the Pope expressed his hope that “the prophetic voices of the hibakusha” may “continue to serve as a warning to us and for coming generations!”. He concluded his message with the invitation to the survivors and “to all who work for reconciliation” to repeat the words of the psalmist: “For love of my brethren and my friends, I say ‘Peace upon you!’ (Ps 122:8)”.