Aleteia: The Two Churches That Survived the Atomic Bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki

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The Australian Disgrace, by George Weigel
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Public Domain

Aleteia, Aug 21, 2019

“We survived because we were living the message of Fatima.”

August 6 was the liturgical Feast of the Transfiguration of Christ. On that date in 1945, the transfigured face of God, reflected in His children, was disfigured with the devastating explosion of the atomic bomb over Hiroshima, in Japan, which exterminated nearly 140,000 men, women, and children.

Jesuits in Hiroshima

Nonetheless, there were miracles among the destruction. At a distance of only eight blocks from ground zero of the explosion, a church where eight Jesuit missionary priests lived remained standing and practically intact, unlike buildings three times farther away that were completely destroyed. These Jesuits went down in history as the Hiroshima Eight.

They didn’t just survive the explosion that had instantly killed 86% of the people in that eight block radius; they lived into old age, unaffected by the radiation which, throughout the following months and years, killed many other survivors of the explosion. The more than 200 tests they underwent over the years all showed negative results for radiation poisoning.

One of the eight, Fr. Hubert Schiffer, was 30 years old on that August 6, 1945. He had celebrated the Holy Mass of the Feast of the Transfiguration, and had just sat down to eat breakfast when, in his own oft-quoted words, “Suddenly, a terrific explosion filled the air with one bursting thunderstroke. An invisible force lifted me from the chair, hurled me through the air, shook me, battered me, whirled me ’round and ’round like a leaf in a gust of autumn wind.”  ….