Pope Francis is having cards printed and distributed showing a 1945 photo of victims of the nuclear bombing of Nagasaki along with the words “the fruit of war.” The photo captures a boy carrying his dead brother on his shoulders while he waits for his turn at the crematory. It was taken by US Marine photographer Joe O’Donnell shortly after the bombs were dropped at the end of World War II. The leader of the world’s Roman Catholics asked that “the fruit of war” be written in the back of the card along with his signature “Franciscus.” A short caption explains the content and origin of the photo, it reads in part: “The young boy’s sadness is expressed only in his gesture of biting his lips which are oozing blood.”
John Allen offers some contextfor this extraordinary gesture:
The gesture is consistent with Francis’s effort since his election to speak out against what he describes as a “Third World War” today, being fought in piecemeal fashion in various parts of the world. The pontiff has also spoken about the disproportionate suffering children often experience in conflicts, including the risk of being enrolled as child soldiers. The gesture with the photo of Nagasaki also comes at the close of a year in which the threat of nuclear conflict once again had the world on edge, in light of North Korea’s threat to use nuclear weapons, and U.S. President Donald Trump’s vow that America would unleash “fire and fury” should that happen. …Though release of the photo in the run-up to New Year’s does not add anything substantive to the pontiff’s positions, it’s nevertheless the first time Francis has asked that a specific image be circulated in the holiday season, suggesting he believes its message is especially relevant at the moment.