In the Catholic liturgical calendar August 6 is the feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord, recalling how Jesus showed himself to three apostles in a radiant light, revealing the glory of God.
August 6, 1945, is a day that should live in infamy. On that day, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city of Hiroshima, not a military target. More than 90,000 were killed almost immediately. Many continued to suffer the effects of radiation for many.
On August 6, 1978, Blessed Pope Paul VI, died. He had called the bombing a “butchery of untold magnitude.”
In 1981, Pope Saint John Paul II said, when visiting Hiroshima:
“To remember the past is to commit oneself to the future. To remember Hiroshima is to abhor nuclear war. To remember Hiroshima is to commit oneself to peace. To remember what the people of this city suffered is to renew our faith in humankind, in their capacity to do what is good, in their freedom to choose what is right, in their determination to turn disaster into a new beginning. In the face of the man-made calamity that every war is, one must affirm and reaffirm again, that the waging of war is not inevitable or unchangeable. Humanity is not destined to self-destruction.”
Two years later, in their 1983 pastoral letter The Challenge of Peace, the US Catholic bishops noted the importance of changing the climate of the US, so that it might “express profound sorrow over the atomic bombing in 1945.” They then wrote:
“Without that sorrow, there is no possibility of finding a way to repudiate future uses of nuclear weapons or of conventional weapons in such military actions as would not fulfill just-war criteria.”
A few days after the dropping of the bomb, the French novelist and philosopher Albert Camus, who had resisted the Nazis, wrote:
…Before the terrifying prospects now available to humanity, we see even more clearly that peace is the only goal worth struggling for. There is no longer a prayer but a demand to be made by all peoples to their governments – a demand to choose definitively between hell and reason.
In September, Dorothy Day poignantly wrote in The Catholic Worker:
Everyone says, “I wonder what the Pope thinks of it?” How everyone turns to the Vatican for judgement, even though they do not seem to listen to the voice there! But our Lord Himself has already pronounced judgement on the atomic bomb. When James and John (John the beloved) wished to call down fire from heaven on their enemies, Jesus said:
“You know not of what spirit you are. The Son of Man came not to destroy souls but to save.” He said also, “What you do unto the least of these my brethren, you do unto me.”