NAGASAKI, Japan (Reuters) - Japanese Christians lined up before dawn on Sunday to get seats at a Mass being said by Pope Francis in Nagasaki, where 27,000 people were killed instantly when the United States dropped a second atomic bomb on Japan, effectively ending World War Two.
Nagasaki is also known for its “Hidden Christians”, people who went underground to blend their religion with elements of Buddhism and Japan’s native Shinto rather than give up their religion or be martyred for their faith during the 250 years when Christianity was banned in Japan.
Pope John Paul II also visited Nagasaki during his trip to Japan 38 years ago.
“It’s like a dream, I’m so excited. When I saw TV last night, with hymns playing and Nagasaki scenes shown, I was practically in tears.
“I was here when the last Pope came as well. I think it’s unbelievable that I’ve been able to see two Popes in my lifetime. It’s like a miracle.”
“This is the second time I’ve been able to see a Pope here in Japan, my heart is beating really fast.
“We can’t have any more atomic bombings. It’d be great if that message would get across to the world. I’d like it if nuclear weapons were eliminated and there wasn’t any more war. I think I may cry.”
“I came yesterday at noon to check things out and see when I could start lining up, I came here by 6:00 a.m. I’m part of a group of Hidden Christians and 38 years ago our representative came to see John Paul II. I’m the seventh generation. He received a rosary. Now we were invited again. Francis has mentioned us several times and seems to acknowledge us. So we’re all really excited by this.
“This is a camellia sapling. If I can see him, I’d like to have him bless this. Camellias have been an important symbol to us from a long time ago. If he does bless it, I’d like to take it back to my home in the Goto islands and use it as a symbol of peace.
“I’m very happy with his message. My grandfather and grandmother were in Nagasaki, working in a factory, when the bomb fell. That makes me a third-generation survivor.”
“This is my last chance to hear the voice of a living Pope and pray with them in the same place.
“This is the best feeling. I was baptized at 20 but I’d been interested in Catholicism since I was in high school. I had lots of thoughts the way you do when you’re young, but one of them was that atomic weapons aren’t something that are proof of man’s technology but will lead to man’s extinction. I’ve felt a long time that atomic technology is not something humans should continue with so I really agree with the Pope.”
Reporting by Elaine Lies; editing by Jane Wardell