On the eve of a new year, Pope Francis has asked that a disturbing image of child victims of the atomic bomb in Nagasaki be distributed in the media as a warning against war.
The photograph, released as tensions increase between the U.S. and North Korea, is of a Japanese boy carrying his deceased brother on his back, awaiting his brother’s turn to be cremated.
It was taken by American photographer Joseph Roger O’Donnell after the U.S. dropped an atomic bomb on Nagasaki on August 9, 1945, in order to hasten the end of the war with Japan.
The Vatican said the Pope “wanted to publish this photo and spread it with a text written on back of the photo ‘the fruit of war,’” adding that the “boy’s sadness is only expressed through his bitten lips and dripping blood."
The Pope has frequently spoken of a “piecemeal” World War III waged by armed groups in different parts of the world, and has become increasingly vocal in his warnings against a nuclear confrontation.
In November, he became the first pope to not only condemn the threat of using nuclear weapons, but also “their very possession,” telling a Vatican conference on disarmament that nuclear arms serve “a mentality of fear that affects not only the parties in conflict but the entire human race.”
In September, North Korea tested a large nuclear weapon underground, claiming it was a hydrogen bomb. It also showed in 2017 it had missile warheads capable of reaching anywhere in the world.
In early December, President Trump’s national security adviser, HR McMaster, said the potential of a U.S. war with North Korea is growing each day, and so “we are in a race to be able to solve this problem.”
But some are playing down the danger, noting that the United States and its allies have not mobilized for war, nor made the necessary steps to prosecute an all-out conflict.
In his Christmas Urbi et Orbi message, the Pope prayed that “confrontation may be overcome on the Korean peninsula and that mutual trust may increase in the interest of the world as a whole.”