Photo/IllutrationMitsuaki Takami, center, archbishop of Nagasaki, receives a cross that survived the 1945 atomic bombing of Nagasaki from Tanya Maus, right, director of the Peace Resource Center at Wilmington College in Ohio, at Urakami Cathedral in Nagasaki on Aug. 7. Chitose Fujita, left, also attends the ceremony on behalf of followers. (Masaru Komiyaji)

  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion

NAGASAKI--A Christian cross that survived the 1945 atomic bombing of Nagasaki and cemented an otherwise-unlikely friendship between a Japanese bishop and a U.S. Marine has returned home to Urakami Cathedral here after 74 years.

Clasping the gold-trimmed wooden artifact, Mitsuaki Takami, the 73-year-old archbishop of Nagasaki, said Aug. 7, “I am delighted the cross is alive.”

“Atomic bomb victims will die, but the cross will remain as a living witness to what happened in Nagasaki,” he added.

Over the years, the cross was kept by Walter Hooke, a U.S. Marine who was stationed in Nagasaki from October 1945 until February 1946.

Hooke, a devout Catholic, found the cross in the ruins of Urakami Cathedral after the city's Aug. 9, 1945, atomic bombing.

Later, he was befriended by Aijiro Yamaguchi, who was then bishop of Nagasaki. He was away from Nagasaki on another assignment when the atomic bomb was dropped.

Yamaguchi presented the artifact to Hooke, who sent it to his mother in New York.

After returning to the United States, Hooke always mounted the cross in his family’s living room, side by side with photographs of his fellow Marines.

Years after Hooke returned to the United States, he and Yamaguchi still kept in touch.

Hooke donated the cross to the Peace Resource Center at Wilmington College in Ohio in 1982.

He died in 2010 at the age of 97.

Tanya Maus, director of the center who brought the cross to Nagasaki, suggested that in another time and place Hooke and Yamaguchi might have been in a position to kill each other.

"The cross is an embodiment of the brutality of war,” she said. “The cross is a cry to the U.S. government and governments of other countries that possess nuclear weapons to stop the use of nuclear weapons,” Maus said after handing over the artifact to Takami in Urakami Cathedral.

Learning that the center had decided to return the cross to Nagasaki, staff at the cathedral started perusing diocese newspaper archives and prewar postcards, trying to find evidence that the cross was once in the possession of the cathedral.

They concluded the cross was displayed on the altar between 1934 and 1938.

The artifact stands about 90 centimeters tall. Its base and ornaments are missing, but otherwise it is well preserved and not cracked. Its gold trim remains intact.

Construction of the cathedral was completed in 1925. It was located about 500 meters from ground zero, the center of the atomic explosion. On the morning of Aug. 9, 1945, bishops and dozens of followers were praying there as usual. They were all killed.

Takami was exposed to radiation as a fetus. He grew up listening to his mother talking about the splendor of the cathedral.

“The cross tells how brutal humans can be, and at the same time, it gives us hope,” Takami said.

He plans to display it as the “atomic-bombed cross.”

In November, Pope Francis is expected to visit Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Takami is hoping the pope will come to the cathedral and see the cross for himself.

(This article was written by Mizuki Enomoto and Masato Tainaka.)