On the Occasion of the 2010 Annual Ten Days for Peace (Comments of the President of the Catholic Bishops’ […]
On the Occasion of the 2010 Annual Ten Days for Peace
(Comments of the President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Japan)
Every year the Catholic Church of Japan observes from August 6th until 15th as a period of Ten Days for Peace. The visit of the late Pope John Paul II to Japan in 1981, during which he issued an appeal for peace at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, became the occasion for beginning this annual period of Ten Days for Peace. These ten days begin each year on the Anniversary of the Atomic Bombing of Hiroshima, include the Anniversary of the Atomic Bombing of Nagasaki, and end on the Commemoration Day for the End of World War II. It is a special period for Japanese Catholics to learn about and pray for peace, and take action.
In Hiroshima, Pope John Paul II repeatedly said, “To remember the past is to commit oneself to the future”. These words echo in our minds even now. Especially this year, voices of those who demand peace have surged up like a swell. Globally there are voices demanding the total abolition of nuclear weapons, and in Japan voices of people in Okinawa who appeal “No more US bases in Okinawa”.
Last year, US President Barack Obama called for the realization of a world without nuclear weapons in his speech in Prague. He mentioned “the moral responsibility” of his own country as the only nuclear power to have used nuclear weapons in human history, although he did not apologize directly to Japanese people. This speech is meaningful because, as Pope John Paul II stated, his determination was based on the reflection on past failures, instead of merely speaking of the ideal toward the total abolition of nuclear weapons.
In May 2010, Archbishop Mitsuaki Takami of Nagasaki Archdiocese visited the US with “Atomic-bombed Mary”, which is the head of a statue of Our Lady found in the rubble of Uragami region, and appealed for the total abolition of nuclear weapons to US citizens and members of the United Nations. As a witness to the formidable atomic attack, “Atomic-bombed Mary”, with its scorched appearance, expresses the outcries of countless atomic-bombed victims and all the war casualties. And it continues to appeal for the importance of peace to the people of the world. We should first listen to such outcries of casualties in order to “commit ourselves for the future”.
Japan must also reflect on what it had done. August 22nd of this year marks the 100th anniversary of the conclusion of the Japan-Korea Annexation Treaty, under which Japan annexed South Korea and colonized the Korean Peninsula. At this crucial point of history, it is important to earnestly reflect on how the Japanese colonial policies were and how they hurt local people, including the responsibilities of the Catholic Church. In “Peace Message After 60 Years from the End of World War II”, the bishops of Japan stated “We Japanese are being called to honestly accept our history, a history which includes the violent invasion and colonization of other countries, reflect on it and share the historic recognition among ourselves. We believe that to do this will be to promise not to repeat the tragedy and also to commit oneself to the future.”
To courageously admit one’s failures and implore the forgiveness before God is not to belittle oneself, but rather to approach the real human figure as Christ desires. In this way, Christ will “break down the dividing wall of enmity” and guide us to real reconciliation.
Let us pray and act for peace with renewed determination once again during this year’s Ten Days for Peace.