08/06/2013, 00.00
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Hiroshima, tens of thousands pray for peace and end of nuclear arms

On 68th anniversary of the atomic bombing of the city by the United States, a celebration commemorates the victims and pledges to "use all means" to achieve peace. Among those present Prime Minister Abe, who honored the survivors. Cardinal Turkson, present for "Ten Days for Peace" organized by the Japanese bishops, invites people to "convert the instruments of death into instruments of life."

Hiroshima (AsiaNews) - Tens of thousands of people gathered this morning in Hiroshima Peace Park to celebrate the 68th anniversary of the nuclear bombing of the city. At 8:15 am, the time when the Enola Gay dropped the first atomic bomb in the history of humanity, people observed a minute of silence. Immediately after some doves, symbols of peace, were released. Among those present were the city's Bishop, Msgr. Thomas Manyo Maeda, and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

As every year, the town hall then sounded the "Bell of Peace" and the mayor added the names of the survivors who have died since last August 6 to the monument that commemorates the victims. These people - who bear the scars from radiation and nuclear related diseases - are known in Japan as hibakusha and are highly respected: currently 201,779 survivors are still living, whose names are honored, however, like those of the dead immediately after the bombing. The Prime Minister laid a wreath at the monument.

The mayor Kazumi Matsui then delivered a speech in which he emphasized the importance of peace: "We offer heartfelt consolation to the souls of the atomic bomb victims by  pledging to do everything in our power to eliminate the absolute evil of  nuclear weapons and achieve a peaceful world".

An estimated 140 thousand people died during the nuclear attack on Hiroshima, followed by the bombing of Nagasaki on August 9. According to the Allies these two devastations hastened the end of World War II, given that Japan remained the only Axis country to fight. On 15 August 1945, Tokyo signed its unconditional surrender.

The Japanese Church celebrates these anniversaries 3 with an event called "Ten Days for Peace." The president of the Bishops' Conference, Archbishop of Tokyo Msgr. Peter Takeo, at the end of June, sent the annual message of the Bishops on the theme "The basis of peace is the protection of human dignity."

Cardinal Peter Turkson, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, is also in Japan for the event.  Yesterday he presided over a "mass for peace" in the cathedral of Hiroshima. In his homily, he recalled the importance of "ending hostilities between humans and converting the instruments of death into instruments of peace and progress for humanity."

Today, the cardinal will participate in an interfaith meeting and deliver an address on mutual cooperation in the construction of world peace, while tomorrow he will be in Nagasaki to take part in a dinner sponsored by the Center for Interreligious Dialogue on World Peace; Thursday as part of a interfaith memorial service held at the "Ground-Zero Park" of the city, Cardinal Turkson will recite a prayer for all the victims. Finally on Friday 9, also in Nagasaki, the president of the Vatican Council will preside over a Mass for peace in the world.


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