From the S&S archives: Pope's peace call strongest ever
HIROSHIMA, Japan — The voice boomed. The words were of peace.
As Pope John Paul II spoke — in cadence broken by emotion — six Marines of Marine Attack Squadron 331 at Iwakuni MCAS seated in the front row listened intently, despite the weariness of having slept overnight in Peace Park through freezing weather.
They had wanted to be assured of front-row seats. "We thought there was going to be a big crowd," said Sgt. Edward Duffy.
As it was, they could have found a front-row seat had they arrived at 7 that morning. One hour before the pope spoke, the seating area was less than one-third full.
BY 8 O'CLOCK, more than 15,000 people had gathered Wednesday at Peace Park — in front of the memorial to the world's worst wartime disaster — the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki by atomic bombs.
"War is the work of man.
"War is the destruction of human life.
"War is death."
With the gutted framework of the last building from the holocaust of Aug. 6, 1945, the pope said, "The final balance of the human suffering that began here has not been fully drawn up — when one sees what nuclear war has done — and could still do — to our ideals, our attitudes and our civilization."
The 60-year-old pontiff spoke in the languages of the world's chief nations armed for war — German, English, Russian, Chinese — and four others.
SOURCES SAID his call for nuclear disarmament was the strongest he has ever made, stronger even than the call for world peace made at the U.N. in October 1979.
The pope praised the efforts of the people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki to turn their suffering into an international pacifist movement, which he called a "new worldwide consciousness against war."
"To remember the past," John Paul said, "is to commit oneself to the future . . . humanity is not destined to self-destruction."
The voice of an American tourist, Tim Blake, also was heard as the pope spoke. Blake shouted, "Remember Pearl Harbor," from the edge of the crowd — beyond earshot of the pope.
"I support the pope," said Blake, 46, of Los Angeles. "I want peace. But I thought we should give this thing a bit of historical perspective."
Blake said his father was killed in the attack on Pearl Harbor.
IN ADDITION to the six Marines in the front row, several hundred more had traveled from Iwakuni MCAS, about 40 miles away, to hear the pope.
Chaplain (Cdr.) Jerry O'Connor of Iwakuni said the pope's visit brought out Catholics who don't regularly worship and non-Catholics, too.
"It takes the pope to get you out," he jokingly told CWO Sean Kelly, a sailor stationed at Iwakuni.
"As someone who doesn't ordinarily get to Mass it's still the greatest thing I'll ever see," Kelly said.
THE POPE'S warmest welcome of this four-day stay in Japan came in Nagasaki.
At the packed Urakami Catholic Church, the pope ordained 15 priests, including two Americans — an act he called "a high point in my apostolic journey to Japan."
He praised Japanese Catholic families, which he said had kept the faith alive without the benefit of priests for generations.
Thursday the pope was to meet with nuns of Japan, hold a public Mass and Communion and' visit the 26 Martyrs Memorial Hall. He will also visit a Franciscan friary and a home for aged victims of the bombs before leaving Nagasaki in the evening for Elmendorf AFB, Alaska.