HIROSHIMA, Japan: Seventy years ago, the only wartime use of nuclear weapons took place in the Aug. 6 attack on Hiroshima and the Aug. 9 attack on Nagasaki by the United States.
The Hiroshima attack killed around 80,000 people instantly and may have caused about 130,000 deaths, mostly civilians. The attack on the port city of Nagasaki killed about 40,000 instantly and destroyed a third of the city.
Four Jesuits were nearby the hypocenter of the attack on Hiroshima, but they survived the catastrophe, and the radiation that killed thousands in the months following had no effect on them.
The Jesuits priests — Hugo Lassalle, Hubert Schiffer, Wilhelm Kleinsorge, and Hubert Cieslik — were at the rectory of the church of Our Lady of the Assumption, one of the few buildings that resisted the bomb blast.
Cieslik wrote in his diary that they only sustained minor injuries from the broken windows – but nothing resulting from the atomic energy that was unleashed.
The doctors who took care of them afterwards warned them that the radiation they received would produce serious lesions, as well as illness and premature death.
The diagnosis never materialized. No disorders ever developed, and in 1976 Schiffer attended the Eucharistic Congress in Philadelphia and told his story. He confirmed that the other Jesuits were still alive and without any ailments. They were examined by dozens of doctors some 200 times over the course of the following years, without any trace of the radiation being found in their bodies.
The four religious never doubted that they had been blessed with protection by God and the Blessed Virgin Mary. “We were living the message of Fatima and we prayed the Rosary every day,” they explained.
Bishop Tarcisio Isao Kikuchi of Niigata said Japan can contribute to peace “Not with new weapons, but with the noble activities that have a long history in the growth of the world, and in a particular way in developing countries.”
Kikuchi added that “this contribution to development, which brings about full respect for human dignity and its fulfillment, would be very appreciated and respected by the international community.”