Sunday, August 6, 2006 -- the Feast of the Transfiguration -- marks 61 years since U.S. military forces dropped the devastating atomic bomb on Hiroshima in the interest of ending World War II. In the year since last summer's observance of the 60th anniversary of the bombing, Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold has visited Hiroshima and there preached the following homily in the Anglican Church of the Resurrection.
Visiting at the invitation of Japan's Anglican Church (Nippon Sei Ko Kai), Griswold preached October 23 during Resurrection Church's principal Sunday morning service. (Photographs of the visit are online).
The liturgy immediately followed a visit to Hiroshima's Peace Park where the Presiding Bishop, accompanied by Japan's Anglican Primate, the Most Rev. Joseph Toru Uno, laid a wreath at the memorial to the more than 200,000 persons who died in when the U.S. atomic bomb leveled the city on August 6, 1945.
Accompanied by the Presiding Bishop, Uno then placed a wreath at a nearby memorial honoring the more than 20,000 Koreans who also died in the attack. The Primates' prayers at the memorials marked the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II.
Griswold departed Hiroshima for Seoul, continuing his 14-day visit to Asia with stops in Shanghai, Nanjing, Hong Kong and Taipei.
Church of the Resurrection
October 23, 2005
The Most Rev. Frank T. Griswold
Presiding Bishop and Primate
The Episcopal Church, USA
Readings: Exodus 22:21-27, I Thessalonians 2:1-8 and Matthew 22:34-46
Brothers and sisters in Christ: On behalf of my wife, Phoebe, and my fellow travelers from the Episcopal Church in the United States, I greet you. I am deeply grateful to be with your primate and your bishop, and with all of you on this 23rd Sunday of Pentecost. This morning, I have been deeply touched by the experience of our visit to the Peace Park. Words are inadequate to express the depth of remorse and sadness, even desolation, I experience in seeing the devastation caused by this horrific event. Surely, the message must be that such a human disaster must never happen again.
With this message on my heart, I am comforted and challenged by the Gospel reading this morning. Jesus makes clear that the core of our faith lived out in the world is our call to love both our creator and our neighbor. The bombing of Hiroshima does a terrible dishonor to both. I am deeply grateful that you have maintained this perpetual reminder of what happened here and in Nagasaki. The memorial invites us never to forget. And as we in the Christian community are reminded of Christ's commandment of love, we are called to proclaim to the world there is another way.
In August I received a statement made by my brother primate, Bishop Uno, This was issued as a Message of Peace on August 15 (2005) as we observed the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II and the bombing of these two cities. I knew then that I must come to this place and be with you today so that we might join hands as two peoples, but of one faith and community, to proclaim that war and violence keep us from carrying out the great commandment to love one another. I am so grateful that you would have us here today, and that your bishop and primate would be with us also. I reach out and embrace you with the joy that comes from knowing we are sisters and brothers of one family in Christ.
Our two churches, here in Japan and the United States, are on a journey of reconciliation. In 1994, on the eve of the 50th anniversary of the end of the war our General Convention -- which is the legislative body of the Episcopal Church, USA -- called for "liturgical expressions of sorrow and repentance for the suffering inflicted upon innocent people as a result of the bombings of the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki."
There were many commemorations around the United States in 1995. Bishop Joseph Iida of the Nippon Sei Ko Kai preached in Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, an event that symbolized healing and reconciliation. In that same year, the Nippon Se Ko Kai held a mission consultation at Kiyosato. An historic document adopted the following year by your 49th General Synod has been very positively received. In that statement, the Nippon Se Ko Kai said it "admits its responsibility and confesses its sin for having supported and allowed, before and during the war, the colonial rule and the war of aggression by the State of Japan." This was an act of great courage and deep humility.
In 1997, Bishops Iida and Nakamura visited our General Convention and received from my church a formal resolution which expressed "profound sorrow to the Japanese people for the agony caused by the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945."
These are the kinds of actions God requires of a faithful people to spread the word of his love and to make possible reconciliation between us. Sisters and brothers, in this moment here with you, and in the context of my visit this morning, I express my own profound sorrow, regret and repentance for the suffering the citizens of this city bore on August 6, 1945, and those in Nagasaki on August 9th. I further issue a call to continuing mutual repentance and reconciliation for what our two peoples inflicted on one another.
I am also aware of the terrible suffering inflicted elsewhere in your country during that war. The island of Okinawa bears the scars of a battle that claimed so many lives. The presence there of U.S. military bases that affect the daily lives of the Okinawan people is a continuing difficulty that has yet to be resolved. Jesus' commandment to love one another applied to this situation has practical and political implications.
Perhaps the single most disappointing moment for me as primate of the American Church is the decision by my government to wage war against Iraq. I opposed that war before it began and wrote to President Bush in September of 2002 in which I said in part: "Unilateral military action would surely inflame the passions of millions, particularly in the Arab world, setting in motion cycles of violence and retaliation. Such action would undermine our firm national intent to eradicate global terrorism. As well, it would further strain tenuous relationships that exist between the United States and other nations...
"A super power, especially one that declares itself to be "under God," must exercise the role of super servant. Our nation has an opportunity to reflect the values and ideals that we espouse by focusing upon issues of poverty, disease and despair, not only within our own nation but throughout the global community of which we are a part." I continue to stand by these words.
In his statement of August 15, Bishop Uno pointed out that U.S. policy in the world today is pushing Japan towards a more militaristic posture, even to being encouraged by my government to move from being a country under a "Peace Constitution" "into a nation once again capable of making war." I commend Bishop Uno for his prophetic warnings. And I join him by once again reminding my own government that the United States must exercise leadership that heals and reconciles, and avoid policies that foment violence and revenge.
The Lambeth Conference, that worldwide body of Anglican bishops, declared in 1930 and again in 1968 that "war as a method of settling international disputes is incompatible with the teaching and example of our Lord Jesus Christ." This is the same Jesus Christ who commands us to love God and one another in today's Gospel. The incompatibility of war with this commandment convicts us of our collective failure to live by the great commandment.
Jesus' words are not only a summons and challenge for the Christian community. They were intended for the whole world. On this day, in this place, let us proclaim these words for the present generation.