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Japan invites the pope to pray at Hiroshima

HIROSHIMA (SE): “One of the things that I have learned since I arrived here in Japan and during my visit to Hiroshima is that Japan has a very particular and understandable take on the whole nuclear question,” Archbishop Paul Gallagher, the secretary for Relations with States for the Vatican, told a press conference in Hiroshima on February 2.

Archbishop Gallagher was met at the Hiroshima Peace Park by the governor of province, Hidehiko Yuzaki, and the mayor of the city, Kazumi Matsui, prior to being escorted around the Peace Memorial Museum and the many monuments scattered throughout the spacious Peace Park by the Japanese ambassador to the Vatican, Yoshio Nakamura.

The archbishop laid flowers at the Cenotaph for A-Bomb Victims, before heading to the Peace Memorial Cathedral for World Peace to celebrate a Mass.

“Japan is the only country in the world which has suffered from the explosion of nuclear devices,” he noted. “And so, the vision that you have here of the whole question is very popular.”

The visit of Archbishop Gallagher comes at a poignant time, as the Japanese bishops released a 290-page book in October last year calling for the abolition of nuclear power for all uses worldwide.

A court has also just begun hearing a case filed by a cleanup worker from the failed Fukushima nuclear power complex that went into meltdown after being hit by a tsunami and earthquake on 11 March 2011 claiming compensation for having developed leukaemia due to high radioactivity exposure.

The 42-year-old welder had spent six months at the Genkai and Fukushima Number Two plants, before moving to the worst site at the Number One reactor in Fukushima.

The man is suing TEPCO and the Kyushu Electric Power Company for US$526,000 ($4.1 million).

He says in the suit that he took the job because he wanted to help clean up and bring the disaster under control, but has only been treated as an expendable worker.

His lawyers claim that he was exposed to unnecessary radiation because of slipshod safety precautions taken by the two companies.

During his visit to the Land of the Rising Sun Archbishop Gallagher also visited the headquarters of Caritas, where staff briefed him on the work the organisation is doing among the survivors of the tsunami.

“We understand that the Catholic community here has a particular vision. They believe that they have to give a prophetic voice and we respect that voice,” he reflected.

During his stay, Archbishop Gallagher also met with the prime minister, Shinzo Abe, who along with the governor and mayor of Hiroshima, asked him to extend a welcome to Pope Francis to visit the country and particularly Hiroshima.

“If the pope says a prayer for bomb victims, it will be a great force for the realisation of a world without nuclear weapons,” the Japanese national broadcaster, NHK, reported Abe as telling Archbishop Gallagher.

On February 1, the English archbishop spoke at the Jesuit-run Sophia University in Tokyo on the importance of taking into account a global perspective in academic work.

He quoted Pope Francis as saying, “If the university becomes no more than an academy of ideas or an assembly line of professionals, or its structure is determined by a business mentality, then it has truly lost its way.

He stressed the importance of the pope’s remark in the context of his visit, saying, “The question of peace involves more than politics and diplomatic activity; it is directly linked to culture and to the sphere of ethics and moral conscience that can generate much apprehension, yet is so greatly needed in international relations.”

He then pointed out that the push the Church is making in its efforts for peace cannot simply be summarised in the United Nations Charter, but insists that the struggle begins with removing the causes that lead to war.

“To bring about true peace, it is necessary to bring people together concretely, so as to reconcile peoples and groups with opposing ideological positions. It is also necessary to work together for what persons, families, peoples and nations feel is their right, namely to participate on a social, political and economic level in the goods of the modern world,” the Vatican diplomat concluded.

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