Pope calls for multilateral approach to nuclear question

Pope Francis

Tokyo, Pope Francis on Monday called for all deterrence measures to be employed in order to avoid a repeat of the 1945 Hiroshima and Nagasaki nuclear bombings and expressed a preference for a multilateral approach when it comes to dealing with the nuclear question.

On the third day of his Japan visit, the pope met Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at his official residence in Tokyo and later addressed government figures in a hall there, where his speech was received by a strong applause, the Efe news reported.

Speaking in Spanish, the Argentine religious leader spoke about his meeting on the morning with victims of the 2011 Tohoku earthquake, Tsunami and the Fukushima nuclear accident – the worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl in 1986.

The pope said he was “moved by the difficulties faced by the affected people.”

Sixteen-year-old Matsuki Kamoshita, a Fukushima victim, had called on the pontiff to pray for the threat of radiation exposure to be removed from the world’s future.

Kamoshita had given his testimony during the event attended by victims of the disaster, which caused 20,000 deaths and left 1,50,000 displaced.

After the incident Japan stepped away from using nuclear power plants, but as time has gone on they have been started up again and nine reactors are currently in use at five sites.

The pope said authorities needed to make courageous and important decisions about the use of natural resources, particularly when it comes to future energy sources.

Meanwhile, PM Shinzo Abe defended the need to reprise nuclear energy in order to stimulate economic growth.

His government aims for between 20-22 per cent of the country’s energy to come from nuclear by 2030.

Francis visited Hiroshima and Nagasaki on Sunday and made a call for nuclear disarmament.

On Monday, he urged leaders to continue “boosting and promoting all deterrence measures required so that the destruction caused by atomic bombs is never repeated, in the history of humankind.”

“History teaches us that valid solutions to conflicts between people and nations, even the most serious ones, can be found only through dialog, the only weapon fit for human beings and capable of ensuring lasting peace,” he said.

“I am convinced of the necessity to discuss the nuclear issue at the multilateral level, promoting a political and institutional process capable of creating a consensus and wider international action,” the pontiff added.

Abe said Japan – being the only country which had experienced the “horror of destruction caused by nuclear energy in war” – had a mission to lead the international community in efforts for making the world free of nuclear weapons.

He said this was the “firm principle and belief established by Tokyo,” adding that the government would continue to function as a “bridge” between states that possessed nuclear weapons and those that did not.

Francis mentioned the upcoming Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games and said he wished that the event would serve as a springboard for “developing a spirit of solidarity that transcends national and regional borders and seeks the well-being of our entire human family.”

The pope also discussed the climate crisis and said that the delicate cherry blossom tree – synonymous with Japan – served as a reminder of the fragile nature of the planet, which has faced “not just natural disasters but also greed, exploitation and devastation at the hands of humans.”

“When the international community finds it difficult to fulfill its commitments to protect nature, it is the youth who are increasingly speaking up and demanding brave decisions,” the pope said.

Francis told the audience that “human dignity should be at the center of all social, economic and political activity” and they should be concerned about “those who have been forgotten and excluded.”

He laid special emphasis on the youth, who have been “overwhelmed” by difficulties.

“The civilization of each nation or people is not judged by its economic power, but by the attention it pays to those in need,” the pope concluded in front of the government of the world’s third biggest economy.

On Monday the pope met Japanese Emperor Naruhito at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo, who told him his parents had cried when Hiroshima was bombed

The pope also gave a mass in front of 50,000 at the Tokyo Dome stadium.

On the morning, he met young people at Toyko Cathedral where he celebrated human diversity.

Only 0.34 percent of the Japanese population professes Catholicism, with many of those following the religion being expatriates.

On Tuesday, the pontiff will visit a university before heading to the airport for a flight back to Rome.