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Nagasaki Catholic Cathedral Gets Back a Piece of World War II History

A wooden cross belonging to Nagasaki’s Immaculate Conception Cathedral was returned returned to Japan on August 7. (Photo: Randy Sarvis/Wilmington College)

The Tablet Staff

A piece of Catholic history in Japan has been returned to its native country.

A wooden cross from the Immaculate Conception Cathedral in Nagasaki, Japan — the second Japanese city hit by a nuclear bomb in August 1945 — was recovered from the cathedral’s remains by U.S. Marine Walter Hooke. 

Hooke gave the cross to Wilmington College in Ohio in 1982. It became part of a display at the college’s Peace Resource Center, whose mission is to study the history of nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki during World War II. Wilmington College is a Quaker school.

Tanya Maus, director of the Peace Resource Center of Wilmington College, arranged for the cross to be returned to Nagasaki. According to Wilmington College, Maus planned to bring the cross back to Japan as an “international goodwill gesture of peace and reconciliation.” 

“Very few artifacts from the cathedral were retained, and that’s why it’s crucial to give back that cross, which is so deeply tied to their identity,” Maus said.

Immaculate Conception Cathedral, which was built between 1895 and 1925, was destroyed when the atomic bomb detonated less than 2,000 feet away. According to the BBC, a third of the city was destroyed in the bombing, which killed about 40,000. The cathedral was later rebuilt in 1959.

“Catholics were actually worshipping in Nagasaki, in the cathedral, at the time the atomic weapon was dropped. All of the people in the cathedral were instantly killed,” Maryann Cusimano Love, an international relations professor at the Catholic University of America, said in an interview with Catholic News Agency.

Maus decided to return the cross after she read an article in Asahi Shimbun, a national newspaper in Japan, that said the Nagasaki Peace Association had been trying to locate the cross for 30 years.  

The cross will now be displayed in the rebuilt cathedral.

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