A small chapel has been completed to enshrine a part of a wooden statue of the Virgin Mary that was destroyed in the atomic bombing of Nagasaki, to stand as a symbol for peace on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the atomic bombing.
The chapel within Urakami Cathedral will be opened to the public following an unveiling ceremony on Tuesday, when the city will hold its annual memorial ceremony, following the one in Hiroshima on Saturday. The United States dropped the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki on Aug. 6 and 9, 1945, respectively.
''I hope that this place will be used to pray for the souls of the departed and for world peace,'' said Isamu Hirano, 68, the parish priest for Urakami Cathedral, which was rebuilt in 1959 after being destroyed in the atomic bombing.
In the cathedral, two priests hearing confessions and some 30 parishioners were killed by the atomic bomb, which exploded at 11:02 a.m.
The wooden statue used to be on top of the altar in the old cathedral, which was located about 500 meters northeast of the hypocenter. Some relics from the cathedral are kept at the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum and the Peace Memorial Park.
Fragments of the head of the statue, whose face was badly burned on the right side, were found by Kaemon Noguchi, a monk at the Trappist Monastery in Hakodate, Hokkaido, while he was searching through the rubble during a visit to Nagasaki after World War II.
Noguchi took the head back to his monastery as a memento, but after learning that the church was looking for relics that survived the atomic bombing, he returned it to Nagasaki in 1975.
According to Hirano, the chapel was built at the promptings of parishioners, who wanted it enshrined for public view to serve as a symbol of the atomic bombing.
One of the parishioners is Isao Nishimura, 71, who worked since January to make the altar for the statue at the chapel, based on past photos of the old altar. He says he feels a special connection with the image as both of them are A-bomb survivors.
''I feel very blessed and thankful for being entrusted with this kind of work,'' he said.
According to Nishimura, he had not known of the existence of the real image until the parish priest asked him in 2000 to repair the statue's head, which was split into three parts and had been kept in a closet.
In September that year, the head was exhibited as part of an exhibit of atomic-bomb items in Minsk, Belarus.
Made of Japanese zelkova wood, the altar stands 6 meters high and measures 3.5 meters wide. It also includes a splinter of a persimmon tree which stood within the cathedral close and was otherwise completely destroyed.
Recently, there have been moves to register the statue's head as a World Heritage site, in the same manner as the A-bomb Dome in Hiroshima, where the world's first atomic bomb to be used against people was detonated at an altitude of about 600 meters.
Thanks to Christine, and Elena-Maria for reminding me of the tragic event.
I often hear people say they brought this on themsleves. This is incorrect. The theory of total war is contrary to the teaching of the church. I hope we have learned from this... Sadly, I don't believe that we have.