►Following the end of World War II, an Urakami-born Trappist priest, Father Kaemon Noguchi (†2001), visited the ruins of the destroyed Urakami Cathedral. He wished to find something in the rubble that he could take as a memento, but could not find anything suitable. He stopped and prayed for a blessing.
When he opened his eyes, he saw the charred face of a wooden statue of the Virgin Mary, looking at him with a “sad and familiar” regard. The priest immediately recognized that it was the head of the statue of the Immaculate Conception placed over the main altar of the cathedral.
Wood Carving — Based on Murillo Painting
The original Marian statue, carved from wood, was brought to Urakami Cathedral in the 1930s from Italy This image is based on the painting by the Spanish painter, Bartoleme Esteban Murillo (1618-1682) of the Immaculate Conception motif. It stood two meters tall.
This was the statue that he had seen regularly as a child and before which he had prayed for guidance and protection and for his vocation, the statue he had never forgotten even after entering the monastery.
The Trappist priest brought the burnt head of the statue back to his monastery in Hokkaido and kept it in his room, praying in front of it. He finally returned it to Urakami Cathedral when he attended a ceremony held there to mark the 30th anniversary of the atomic bombing.
A Return to Urakami Cathedral
On the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the bombing, the statue, which has come to be called “Hibaku no Maria” (‘Atomic-Bombed Mary’), was installed in a newly-erected small chapel at the cathedral.
Five years later, in 2010, Hibaku-no Maria accompanied Archbishop Mitsuaki Takami of Nagasaki on his world peace pilgrimages to the Vatican and Spain, where the head was presented at a memorial ceremony held for air raid victims in Guernica.
The statue was then taken to the United Nations in New York in time for the Non-Proliferation Treaty review conference.#