Photo/IllutrationThe IlluminArt Chorus from Japan performs during Mass at St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican on Sept. 14. (Shinichi Kawarada)

VATICAN CITY--A message of hope from disaster-stricken Fukushima Prefecture was read out as a “joint prayer” during Mass at St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican on Sept. 14.

“We are struggling even now due to the tsunami, the nuclear accident and damage from negative publicity,” Junko Sato, 67, from Shirakawa, Fukushima Prefecture, said in the message. “But peach trees are bearing fruit again, providing hopes for reconstruction.”

Sato is a member of the IlluminArt Chorus that traveled from Japan to attend Mass, which was offered by a cardinal acting for Pope Francis.

Fukushima Prefecture is known for producing sweet and high-quality peaches. However, shipments dropped after the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami in March 2011 caused the nuclear accident there.

“Although people in Fukushima are still struggling, there is hope,” Sato said later. “For example, the children’s generation said they will continue to grow peaches.

“I wanted to convey a prayer and gratitude to friends throughout the world who live together now,” she said.

During Mass, the IlluminArt Chorus sang “Orasho,” a song of a prayer that has been passed down by Christians on Ikitsukishima island in Hirado, Nagasaki Prefecture.

Tomomi Nishimoto, the artistic director of the chorus group and a conductor, whose great-grandmother was from the island, said, “Through the performance of ‘Orasho,’ I can feel the connection between Japan and the Vatican that transcends time and space.”

Pope Francis is scheduled to visit Japan from Nov. 23 to 26. While in Tokyo, he is expected to meet people affected by the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami and evacuees from the nuclear accident.