Mitsuaki Takami was a three-month-old unborn baby on August 9, 1945, when his family lived through hell. In spite of the fact that many of his relatives were killed by the atomic bomb dropped on his city of Nagasaki that day—the second use of a nuclear weapon in history—or died in the days and weeks following, Takami was saved.
Today, 75 years after the dramatic events that led to Japan’s surrender and the end of the Second World War, Takami is the Roman Catholic archbishop of Nagasaki and president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Japan.
As the world marks the 75th anniversary of the dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Takami reflected in a forum sponsored by Georgetown University on the meaning and implications of the United States’ decision to use the weapons.
Nagasaki is an area in Japan with a rich Catholic history.
Maryann Cusimano Love, associate professor of international relations at the Catholic University of America, in an introduction to the online event, said it was ironic that the United States, through the use of the bomb on Nagasaki, accomplished what centuries of persecution could not: “destroy the center of Christianity in Japan and Asia.”
“Archbishop Takami’s life is witness to a miracle—certainly that he lived through a blast that killed so many—but also as living stones that rebuilt the Church and Japan with their lives. Priests and nuns were among the first responders in Hiroshima, ministering to the needs of bomb survivors, reminding us all that even within the horror of war, love is possible, peace is possible, peace is practical, and peace is our calling. Rather than ending the Church, or turning to cycles of vengeance and violence, Nagasaki arose from the ashes to educate, advocate, and be ambassadors for peace, carrying the message from Nagasaki around the world.”
Archbishop Takami said that when the bomb was dropped, 14 parishioners of the city’s Urukami Church were going to confession in preparation for the feast of the Assumption. They and two priests were killed instantly. Over the next few months, some 8,500 of Urukami’s 12,000 parishioners would be dead, succumbing either to the blast or to radiation sickness.
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