On Aug. 9 – the day that marks the 65th anniversary of the U.S. atomic bombing of Nagasaki – a statue of the Blessed Mother that survived the devastating blast remains symbolic of the need for renewed efforts in promoting global peace.
There is little left of the once six-foot tall statue of Mary from the Urakami Cathedral of Nagasaki, just the a hollow looking visage still in one piece from the neck up. Half bleached white and half charcoal black, all that remained of the statue after the Aug. 9, 1945 atomic explosion was the head.
She is known as "Bombed Maria" locally.
"When I first saw (the damaged statue), I thought the Virgin Mary was crying," said Shigemi Fukahori, told the Agence France Presse (AFP) on Sunday. Fukahori is a 79-year-old parishioner who remembers the statue before the explosion.
"I thought it's as if the Virgin Mary is telling us about the misery of war by sacrificing herself," Fukahori noted. "This is a significant symbol of peace which should be preserved forever."
In an article on Aug. 8, the AFP provided commentary from survivors of the devastating attack, who recalled the shock and horror of the blast which killed some 70,000 in the area – 8,500 of whom were local Christians.
"I was too sad to cry because it was simply too merciless," Fukahori added. "Many survivors are still suffering the after-effects of the radiation. All I can do is to pray for them. I hope Nagasaki will be the last place ever to fall victim to an atomic bomb."
In April of this year, Pope Benedict blessed the statue's remains after a Wednesday audience at the Vatican. Rome was just the first stop on an international "peace pilgrimage" by the Archbishop of Nagasaki.