Photo/IllutrationCatholics across Japan can expect to receive copies of this card with this seminal photo, titled “The boy standing by the crematory.” (Kentaro Yamano)

  • Photo/Illustraion

NAGASAKI--An iconic photo of the aftermath of the 1945 atomic bombing of Nagasaki that served as the canvas of a peace message by Pope Francis is to be distributed to Catholics across Japan.

Copies of the pope’s card were distributed by the Vatican to church officials ahead of the Roman Catholic Church’s World Day of Peace on Jan. 1 to reflect on the horrors of the atomic bombings and war.

The Roman Catholic Church of Japan, in line with calls by the pope for the abolition of nuclear weapons, will deliver 200,000 copies of the card, which carried the photo titled “The boy standing by the crematory.”

The photo was taken by Joe O’Donnell, a war photographer for the U.S. occupation forces in Nagasaki.

Distribution of a translated, Japanese-language version was proposed by Archbishop Mitsuaki Takami, a hibakusha atomic bomb victim who represents the Catholic Archdiocese of Nagasaki, during a meeting of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Japan.

“The photo symbolizes the pain, suffering and sorrow of humans induced by war,” said Takami, whose mother was pregnant with him in Nagasaki when a second atomic bomb leveled the city on Aug. 9, 1945. “I want as many people as possible to clasp this card in their hands.”

Church officials in Japan said they obtained approval from the Vatican and from O’Donnell’s family.

The original card, titled “The fruit of war” and signed by the pope, says that the boy had his dead brother strapped to his back, waiting for his turn to cremate him.

“The young boy’s sadness is expressed in his gesture of biting his lips, which are oozing blood,” it read.

Copies of the card will be sent to local churches via parishes and handed to followers during the Ten-Day Period of Peace from Aug. 6, the anniversary of the 1945 atomic bombing of Hiroshima, through Aug. 15, when Japan surrendered in World War II.

“(The pope) was likely intuitively convinced that this will serve as a message to the current situation, in which the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons is not endorsed by nuclear weapon states and the countries under their umbrellas, and nuclear arms are proliferating beyond control,” the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Japan says in a document it sent to parishes in explaining the background of the distribution plan.