WASHINGTON (August 3, 2005) – The 60th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki provides an opportunity to reflect on the lessons of the Second World War and to recommit to efforts for a lasting peace built on justice, according to the president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
"Hiroshima and Nagasaki are permanent reminders to the entire human family of the grave consequences of total war," said Spokane Bishop William S. Skylstad in a letter to Bishop Augustinus Jun-ichi Nomura, president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Japan.
Bishop Skylstad said that the Church should continue working for nuclear non-proliferation and the elimination of nuclear weapons, spurred by memories of the Second World War. He said the USCCB would continue to urge the U.S. government to strive toward those ends.
"As the Holy See has repeatedly insisted, the peace we seek cannot be attained through nuclear weapons," Bishop Skylstad said.
The full text of Bishop Skylstad's letter follows:
August 2, 2005
As we mark the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II, our Conference expresses its solidarity with the Church in Japan and offers our prayers for peace and justice.
This anniversary gives all of us an opportunity to reflect on the lessons of the war. As Pope John Paul II said in his message on the 50th anniversary of the war, World War II remains a "point of reference necessary for all who wish to reflect on the present and on the future of humanity."
At this time of remembrance, we solemnly recall the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. These bombings, like other acts of total war in that conflict, brought indiscriminate destruction and death to civilians and soldiers alike. Hiroshima and Nagasaki are permanent reminders to the entire human family of the grave consequences of total war.
No matter how noble the ends of a war may be, they cannot justify employing means or weapons that fail to discriminate between noncombatants and combatants. As the Second Vatican Council declared, "Every act of war directed to the indiscriminate destruction of whole cities or vast areas with their inhabitants is a crime against God and man, which merits firm and unequivocal condemnation." (Gaudium et Spes, no. 80)
In our day, the threat of global nuclear war may have receded, only to be replaced by the prospect of nuclear terrorism. Terrorist attacks on innocent civilians are a crime against God and humanity and merit the same unequivocal condemnation of all acts that fail to discriminate between combatants and noncombatants.
The memories of World War II and the first and only use of nuclear weapons compel our Conference and the entire Church to continue working for nuclear non-proliferation and the elimination of nuclear weapons. As the Holy See has repeatedly insisted, the peace we seek cannot be attained through nuclear weapons. At this year's Review Conference on the Treaty on the Non-proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, the Holy See stated: "Nuclear weapons assault life on the planet, they assault the planet itself, and in so doing they assault the process of the continuing development of the planet."
We hope and pray that the Church can contribute to the cause of peace as we support genuine nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation, not merely as ideals, but as moral imperatives and urgent policy goals. Our Conference will continue to urge the United States government to move away from its reliance on nuclear weapons for security and to commit itself to international non-proliferation and the successful control of nuclear materials in this age of terrorism. A true commitment to peace also requires us to promote respect for human life and dignity, human rights, and genuine development in a world plagued by injustice and poverty.
As we recall the end of World War II, we pray that the memory of Hiroshima and Nagasaki will impel all of humanity to work with renewed vigor for lasting peace built on the foundation of justice for all. In solidarity with the Church in Japan, our Conference pledges ourselves to realizing Pope Paul VI's call: "No more war, war never again!"
With prayerful best wishes to you, I am
Most Reverend William S. Skylstad
Bishop of Spokane