Hibakusha: From the cruel memory of Hiroshima to the smile of Pope Francis

A survivor of the Hiroshima bomb expresses her gratitude to the pontiff for his visit, his words and his "smile".

Nov 29, 2019

By Setsuko Hattori
The "affectionate smile" of Pope Francis in Hiroshima "was full of love and I impressed his message in my heart”  says Setsuko Hattori, a hibakusha from Hiroshima, whom AsiaNews had interviewed on the eve of the Pope's trip to Japan. Mrs. Hattori, 92, who survived the 1945 atomic bomb, was able to follow the Pope only through the TV, being unable to move due to a bone marrow disease. Here are her considerations after the Pope's visit.

I was very happy to have witnessed a Pope’s arrival in Hiroshima for the second time. Until the visit of John Paul II (1981) I had always avoided speaking of my experience of the atomic bomb. Because the memory was a cruel one and I wanted to forget.

But the coming of John Paul II 38 years ago was an opportunity for change for me.

That day, when John Paul II was at the Peace Park, I too was there together with the choir group, right in front of the Monument to the victims that I always visited to pray for my father.

And I thought the pope's voice reached my father.

The Pope's appeal to peace had spurred me on and so, during a school trip, I started telling students about the pain of losing my father and the tragedy I had seen while fleeing.

This time Pope Francis came and I could only see him through television.

Love flowed from the expression of his affectionate smile and I impressed his message in my heart. He said many important things. I have a great desire for young people to welcome the meaning of his message in order to work for peace.--Asia News

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