Pope Meets Victims of Japan's 2011 Disaster, Stresses Evils of Nuclearization

Published November 25th, 2019 - 12:41 GMT
Pope Francis waves upon his arrival for a holy mass at the Tokyo Dome stadium in Tokyo on November 25, 2019. Pope Francis called on November 25 for renewed efforts to help victims of Japan's 2011 "triple disaster" of earthquake, tsunami and the Fukushima meltdown, noting "concern" in the country over the continued use of nuclear power. Vincenzo PINTO / AFP
Pope Francis waves upon his arrival for a holy mass at the Tokyo Dome stadium in Tokyo on November 25, 2019. Pope Francis called on November 25 for renewed efforts to help victims of Japan's 2011 "triple disaster" of earthquake, tsunami and the Fukushima meltdown, noting "concern" in the country over the continued use of nuclear power. Vincenzo PINTO / AFP
Highlights
Nine years later more than 40,000 people still cannot return home.

Pope Francis has met with victims of Japan's 2011 nuclear disaster and called for the world to rethink its reliance on nuclear power as it considers the planet it wants to leave to future generations.

Francis spoke after listening to searing evidence from victims, including Matsuki Kamoshita, a 17-year-old high school student from Iwaki on the eastern coast of Fukushima. 

Matsuki wrote to the Pope last year begging that he visit Fukushima to see for himself the impact.

He was rewarded with a papal audience at the Vatican, and on Monday a chance to address the pope in public to tell his story.

Francis recalled that Japan's Catholic bishops called for the abolition of nuclear power plants in the aftermath of the 'triple disaster', in which three reactors at a nuclear plant in Fukushima melted down after an earthquake triggered a tsunami. 

The meltdown coated the area in radioactive fallout and at one point forced the displacement of 160,000 people.

Nine years later more than 40,000 people still cannot return home.

The day after the tsunami, Matsuki's parents and his little brother evacuated and eventually ended up in Tokyo to stay away from the radiation.

Instead of sympathy, he faced bullying at school, where he was treated as if 'infectious'.

In his speech to the pope Monday, Matsuki lamented that the government had 'given up' on housing evacuees while continuing to pursue nuclear power as a state policy.

'It will take many times longer than my lifetime to restore the contaminated land and forests,' he told the pope.

'So, for us who live there, adults have a responsibility to explain without concealing anything about radioactive contamination, exposure, and possible damage in the future.

'I don't want them to die before us, having lied or not admitting the truth.'

Matsuki asked for the pope to pray that political leaders find another path.

'And please pray with us that people from all over the world will work to eliminate the threat of radiation exposure from our future,' he said.

After he finished, he approached the pope, who took him in his arms for a long embrace.  

Francis did not make the call to abolish nuclear power in his speech before victims.

But in citing the position of Japanese bishops and his own calls for lifestyle changes that consider the environment, he made clear that 'important decisions will have to be made about the use of natural resources, and future energy sources in particular'.

'As we think about the future of our common home, we need to realise that we cannot make purely selfish decisions, and that we have a great responsibility to future generations,' he said.

'Consequently, we must choose a humble and sober way of life that recognises the urgent realities we are called to face.'

This article has been adapted from its original source.


© Associated Newspapers Ltd.

You may also like