Fr. Pedro Arrupe Led Response to the Thermonuclear Carnage
►Saul of Tarsus, a zealous Pharisee who was a relentless persecutor of early Christians, was so active in pursuing Christians that he was even present at the stoning to death of St. Stephen, the Protomartyr or first martyr of Christianity. But he had his “Damascus” moment (circa AD 33–36) – “on the road to Damascus” — when he was felled by a blinding light and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” — an event recorded in the New Testament. He became an ardent follower of Jesus and is venerated in Christendom as Paul the Apostle.
Emperor Constantine had his “Chi-Rho” (ΧΡ) moment in AD 312 when, marching to battle, he saw a cross of light above the sun, and with it some Greek words, rendered into Latin as “In Hoc Signo Vinces” (“In This Sign, You Will Conquer”).
Fr. Pedro Arrupe, SJ (1907-1991), Father Superior of Jesuits in Japan during World War II, had his “Hiroshima” moment – when the First Atomic Bomb was dropped on humans as an instrument of mass destruction on Aug. 6, 1945. Fr. Arrupe described that event as “a permanent experience outside of history, engraved on my memory.”
The Jesuits were at the rectory of the Church of Our Lady of the Assumption when they heard the sirens warning of the approach of a hostile bomber. After an ominous explosion they felt the concussion that blew the doors and windows of the rectory. Led by their Father Superior, the Jesuits ventured out to see Hiroshima engulfed in a “lake of fire.” He later recalled: “I shall never forget my first sight of the result of the atomic bomb: a group of young women, 18 or 20 years old, clinging to one another as they dragged themselves along the road.”
Knowing nothing about the dangers of atomic radiation, the Jesuits brought into their damaged rectory some 150 of the wounded and dying, under the direction of Arrupe, who had some medical training. Arrupe recalled, “The chapel, half destroyed, was overflowing with the wounded, who were lying on the floor very near to one another, suffering terribly, twisted with pain.”
Whereas thousands of people had been immediately vaporized in one blinding instant, Fr. Arrupe and ALL the German Jesuits — including Fr. Hubert Cieslik (1914-1988), who would later be the lead historian for the “Beatification Cause of Justo Takayama Ukon” — continued to live without serious ailments or disabilities for over four decades after the A-Bomb. Fr. Hubert Schiffer, SJ, and his fellow Jesuits believe they survived “because we were living the Message of Fatima and we lived and prayed the Rosary daily in that home.” ◘
Dr. ERNIE A. DE PEDRO
Lord Takayama Jubilee Foundation