WRITINGS OF TALIN DEROHANESSIANS – For the first time in nearly 40 years, a Catholic Pope has visited Japan. The date was November 23 and the main items on the agenda were environmental protection and peace. While there, Pope Francis met Japanese Emperor Naruhito at the Imperial Palace and Shinzo Abe, Prime Minister.

Pope Francis began his journey by comforting atomic bomb survivors in Nagasaki and Hiroshima. He also met with victims of the 2011 “triple disaster” in Tokyo on November 25. The Pope has heard firsthand stories from survivors of the 9.1-magnitude earthquake that triggered a tsunami and led to the collapse of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

The triple disaster began with an earthquake that struck 130 kilometers off the northeastern coast of Japan. The ensuing tsunami wiped out people and buildings, cutting off power and damaging the cooling systems at the Fukushima Daiichi power station. The result was a nuclear disaster, the worst since Chernobyl. 15,898 people have died and 2,531 are missing and have never been found. No deaths were directly associated with the collapse, but nearly 4,000 people died from complications from the evacuations. 50,000 stay in temporary accommodation.

In response to the disaster, the Catholic bishops of Japan called for the closure of all nuclear power plants – a surprising deviation from national policy, which has not changed since 1955 but has come under intense scrutiny following the Fukushima Daiichi disaster.

On his November trip, Pope Francis addressed people at Mass at the Tokyo Dome, acknowledging the disconnect that has arisen between young people caused by the country’s long working hours and increased competition, which has leads the Pope to urge them to be more aware and communicative. The Pope also urged people to consider future generations and to “Think about the future of our common home, we must realize that we cannot make purely selfish decisions. “He even called the use of atomic weapons a crime against the dignity of humans and the future of our ‘common home’.

The trip ended at the Jesuit Sophia University in Tokyo. Francis urged students and faculty at the prestigious private university to consider expanding admissions to include more than a select few. He also encouraged the university to focus on environmental concerns, which fit into its personal agenda.

The Pope had started his Asia tour in Thailand, highlighting religious harmony and peace in the predominantly Buddhist country which warned of the dangers of technology diminishing the importance of culture and religion. Thailand, like Japan, has a small Catholic community. Nonetheless, her holiday-inspired message of hope and peace applies everywhere, to everyone, anytime. Peace.

About Walter J. Leslie

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