Priests and parishioners killed. A cathedral almost completely obliterated. The head of a wooden statue of Mary badly burned, but miraculously intact.
It’s been 50 years since the reconstruction of the Urakami Catholic Cathedral, which the atomic bomb ravaged in 1945 in Nagasaki, Japan. Built by the French in 1914, it had been the largest Catholic church in Asia.
The superior of the Jesuits in Japan suggested the creation of a memorial church, and citizens competed in an architectural contest, according to Catholic News Service archives.
An unnamed American benefactor gave $50,000 to erect the church.
“Americans dropped the bomb,” the benefactor said, “so Americans should help build the memorial.”
Foreign nations raised about $60,000. Much of it came from Catholic War Veterans, based in Alexandria, Va. A spokesperson could not verify this and said many veterans from that time have passed away.
A group in Switzerland has been pushing to place the Mary statue on the World Heritage List since 2001. A displaced Japanese soldier and Catholic priest found the eyeless statue while praying in the ruins of the church, according to group’s Web site. He kept it in his monastery for 30 years until giving it to a professor, who kept it for 15 years. It then spent some time in an atomic bomb museum until the group’s leader helped it find its home in the rebuilt church.
More than 20,000 people have signed petitions to have the statue recognized.