National

Nagasaki cathedral chapel enshrines A-bombed statue of the Virgin Mary

Kyodo

A small chapel has been completed to enshrine part of a wooden statue of the Virgin Mary that was destroyed in the atomic bombing of Nagasaki.

The chapel in Urakami Cathedral was opened with a ceremony Tuesday, the same day the city held its annual ceremony on the 60th anniversary of the attack.

The United States dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima on Aug. 6, 1945, and another on Nagasaki three days later.

“I hope this place will be used to pray for the souls of the departed and for world peace,” said Isamu Hirano, 68, the parish priest at 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 atop the altar in the old cathedral, which was located about 500 meters northeast of where the bomb detonated. Some relics from the cathedral are kept at the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum and 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 bombing he returned it to Nagasaki in 1975.

According to Hirano, the chapel was built at the prompting of parishioners, who wanted the statue enshrined for public view to serve as a symbol of the bombing.

Parishioner Isao Nishimura, 71, who worked since January to make the altar for the statue, based on photos of the old one, said he feels a special connection with the statue as both of them are A-bomb survivors. “I feel very blessed and thankful for being entrusted with this kind of work,” he said.