Within the Archdiocese of Santa Fe, New Mexico, are massive research and production facilities for nuclear weapons. Archbishop John Webster has given time to reflect on the presence of such destructive power in his diocese, culminating in a Pastoral Letter he issued earlier this year, which can be read here. We publish two extracts today and tomorrow, since it was at this time of year that the nuclear bombs were dropped on Nagasaki and Hiroshima. The whole document makes for interesting, but challenging, reading.
In September 2017, I travelled to Japan and visited Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It was a sombre, sobering experience as I realised that on August 6, 1945, humanity crossed the line into the darkness of the nuclear age. We can now kill billions of people instantly and even destroy the world in a flash.
The reality of this evil becomes very real as you walk through Hiroshima and Nagasaki today. In one exhibit, I read about school children in Hiroshima who, on that fateful morning in August 1945, ran to the windows, attracted by a bright light. I wonder how many were running to their deaths, either instantaneously incinerated or dying later in agonising pain. Normally, light brings new life and clearer vision. Not that day. Sadly, the light generated by the first nuclear explosion used in war brought only destruction and death.
Then I remembered when I was a schoolboy in October 1962 during the Cuban Missile Crisis. I recall looking up at the sky on my way home from school to see if any Russian planes were about to drop atomic bombs on me. I became so frightened that I ran all the way home.
Those Japanese school children had no time to be afraid. They had no time to run and there was no home left to run to. Later, when I walked through the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park and stood before the incinerated Genbaku Dome, it dawned on me that I had not really thought about the possibility of nuclear war since then or felt fear over the nuclear threat. Those childhood days when we practised for nuclear war by hiding under our desks or locating the nearest bomb shelter are dim memories. But Hiroshima and Nagasaki brought them all back vividly.