Welcome to Eureka Street

back to site


Hiroshima insider's imprint on Jesuit sensibility

  • 08 August 2007

Sometimes anniversaries illuminate one another. 6 August is the day on which the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. This year marks the centenary of the birth of Pedro Arrupe. He was a Basque Jesuit who worked in Japan and later became Superior General. He was present at Hiroshima on 6 August, 1945, and subsequently lectured widely about the event. His edited description of the event illuminates significant aspects of Hiroshima:

"I was in my room with another priest at 8.15 when suddenly we saw a blinding light, like a flash of magnesium. As I opened the door which faced the city, we heard a formidable explosion similar to the blast of a hurricane. At the same time doors, windows and walls fell upon us in smithereens.

"We climbed a hill to get a better view. From there we could see a ruined city: before us was a decimated Hiroshima. Since it was at a time when the first meal was being prepared in all the kitchens, the flames contacting the electric current turned the entire city into one enormous lake of fire within two and a half hours.

"I shall never forget my first sight of what was the result of the atomic bomb: a group of young women, eighteen or twenty years old, clinging to one another as they dragged themselves along the road. "We continued looking for some way of entering the city, but it was impossible. We did the only thing that could be done in the presence of such mass slaughter: we fell on our knees and prayed for guidance, as we were destitute of all human help. "The explosion took place on 6 August. The following day, 7 August, at five o’clock in the morning, before beginning to take care of the wounded and bury the dead, I celebrated Mass in the house. In these very moments one feels closer to God, one feels more deeply the value of God’s aid. Actually the surroundings did not foster devotion for the celebration of the Mass. 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." Fr Arrupe’s view of the bombing of Hiroshima was from the inside. He was inside the house when it happened, tried to find out what happened, and then became preoccupied with tending to the injured. He was a doctor. He