Pope Francis has called for an end to nuclear weapons in a speech given on the 70th anniversary of the bombing of Nagasaki, which saw the end of the Second World War and killed at least 70,000 people.
"Seventy years ago, on the sixth and the ninth of August 1945, the terrible atomic bomb attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki took place," the pontiff told a crowd gathered in St Peter's Square on Sunday. "Even after so many years, this tragic event still arouses horror and revulsion," he continued.
The devastating bombings, the Pope emphasized, have "become the symbol of mankind's enormous destructive power when it makes a distorted use of scientific and technical progress and serves as a lasting warning to humanity so that it rejects forever war and bans nuclear weapons and all weapons of mass destruction".
He added, "Above all, this sad anniversary urges us to pray and strive for peace, to spread brotherhood throughout the world and a climate of peaceful coexistence between peoples. May one cry rise up from every land, 'No' to war and violence and 'Yes' to dialogue and to peace."
He concluded: "With war one always loses. The only way to win a war is never to wage it."
Francis is not the only prominent religious leader to call for nuclear disarmament in light of the destruction in Nagasaki: Rev Dr. Sang Chang, World Council of Church president for Asia, said at the the Nuclear Disarmament Symposium in Hiroshima last week, "Nuclear disarmament now - on the 70th anniversary of the atomic bombings - requires us to focus faith, ethics and morality on the need for an urgent new international law. That law is a legal ban on nuclear weapons, achieved with the widest possible international backing."
Meanwhile, thousands gathered at Nagasaki's rebuilt Urakami Cathedral yesterday to commemorate the tragic event. The IBTimes notes that the more than 70,000 who died in the bombing included 8,500 of the cathedral's 12,000 parishioners, decimating the largest Christian community in Japan.
Nagasaki mayor Tomihisa Taue delivered a peace declaration to the ceremony, and American bishop Oscar Cantu told attendees, "This commemoration calls to mind terrible evil encountered 70 years ago, but as we commemorate in the light of the gospel, this is also an opportunity for us to commit ourselves to peace."
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe also marked the 70th anniversary of the atomic bombing renewing his commitment to a nuclear-weapons-free Japan, NBC reports.
"As the only nation in the world to have suffered a war-time nuclear attack, I have renewed my resolve to play a leading role in pursuing a world without nuclear weapons and maintain the three non-nuclear principles," Abe said in a speech given at Nagasaki Peace Park.