In a somber visit to Hiroshima and Nagasaki Sunday, Pope Francis condemned nuclear weapons as “immoral” and called for a world without them.
“The use of atomic energy for purposes of war is immoral — as is the possession of atomic weapons,” he said at the peace memorial in Hiroshima, where an American atomic bomb in 1945 — the first in the world — killed at least 140,000 people.
“We will be judged on this,” he warned.
Francis spoke with survivors there, one of them who was a 14-year-old factory worker at the time.
“No one in this world can imagine such a scene of hell,” Yoshiko Kajimoto said as she described fleeing the scene, The Associated Press reported. Victims’ “bodies were so burned and totally red. Their faces swollen to double size, their lips hanging loose, with both hands held out with burnt skin hanging from them. They no longer looked human.”
Earlier in the day, the pontiff visited Nagasaki, which the U.S. bombed three days after Hiroshima, killing some 74,000 people.
“Peace and international stability are incompatible with attempts to build upon the fear of mutual destruction or the threat of total annihilation,” the Roman Catholic leader said in remarks there in the driving rain.
The pope emphasized that resources wasted creating nuclear weapons could far better be used helping humanity.
“In a world where millions of children and families live in inhumane conditions, the money that is squandered and the fortunes made through the manufacture, upgrading, maintenance, and sale of ever more destructive weapons are an affront crying out to heaven,” he said.
Francis’s trip was the first papal visit to Japan in nearly 40 years. On the last trip in 1981, Pope John Paul II also visited Nagasaki.
Francis is the first pope to speak out against nuclear weapons, even for “deterrence.”