06 August 2021

‘He will make an end to war … he will
break the bow and smash the spear’

Patrick Comerford

This has been a busy day, taking part in the annual Hiroshima Day commemorations in Merrion Square, Dublin, and speaking as president of the Irish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (Irish CND).

It is 76 years since the atomic bombing of Hiroshima on 6 August 1945, and it is 42 years since I visited Hiroshima in 1979. But that visit, and my meetings with hibakusha or victims of the bomb, are still fresh in my memory.

This evening, for my Friday evening reflections, I am reflecting on some prayers and readings on the theme of world peace in Service of the Heart, a prayer book edited by Rabbi John D Rayner and Rabbi Chaim Stern, and published in 1967 by the Union of Liberal and Progressive Synagogues.

The prayer beginning ‘May it be your will …’ is from The Language of Faith, edited by Nathan Tucker, and comes, in turn, from Likkutey Tefillot, a collection of person prayers ascribed to Rabbi Nachman of Breslov (1772-1811), the founder of the Breslov Hasidic movement and a great-grandson of the Baal Shem Tov, founder of Hasidism.

The responsive reading beginning ‘Keep your tongue from evil …’ draws on the psalms and readings in the Mishnah (M Avot) and the Babylonian Talmud (B Gittin).

All reading:

May it be your will that war and bloodshed shall vanish from the earth, and that a great and glorious peace may reign in all the world. Let all who dwell on earth perceive and understand the basic truth, that we have not come into this world for strife and discord, hatred and envy, greed and bloodshed, but that we have come into this world only to understand you, who are to be praised for ever.

Let your glory fill our minds and hearts. Teach us so to use our skills and understanding that through us your presence may come to dwell on earth, and that your power and the splendour of your kingdom may be known to all mankind. Amen.

Responsive reading:

Keep your tongue from evil, and your lips from speaking guile.
Depart from evil, and do good; seek peace and pursue it.

Be of the disciples of Aaron, loving peace and pursuing peace,
loving your fellow-men, and bringing them to the Torah.

The whole Torah exists only to bring peace, as it is written, ‘Its
ways are ways of pleasantness, and all its paths are peace.’

‘Peace, peace, to the far and the near,’ says the Lord.

‘Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit,’ says the Lord of hosts.

He will make an end to war throughout the world; he will break
the bow and smash the spear; he will make the chariot of war
go up in flames.

Justice shall dwell in the wilderness, and righteousness shall abide
in the fruitful field. And the effect of righteousness shall be
peace, and the result of righteousness, quietness and
confidence for ever.

They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain, for the
earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters
cover the sea.

They shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig-tree,
and none shall make them afraid.

The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge.

Shabbat Shalom

We need to take note
of all the warning signs
and rekindle our hope

Yoshinori Sakai, who ran the final leg of the torch relay for the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, at the Olympic torch in Tokyo shortly before he died

Patrick Comerford

President, Irish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (Irish CND)

1 p.m., Friday 6 August 2021

Annual Hiroshima Day Commemoration

Merrion Square, Dublin

I think we are all proud of the medals our Olympic athletes have brought home from Tokyo. Personally, I am particularly proud of our rowers and scullers.

I am old enough now to also recall the first Olympics in Tokyo, back in 1964.

But how many of us remember the opening ceremony in Tokyo on 10 October 1964 … 57 years ago, but just 19 years after the bombing of Hiroshima?

Yoshinori Sakai (1945-2014) was the Olympic flame torchbearer who lit the cauldron at the Tokyo Olympics in 1964. He was born on the day of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, two hours after the bombing. The Hiroshima bomb exploded so close to his hometown of Miyoshi, 60 km away, that his father saw the flash.

At the age of 19, Yoshinori Sakai was chosen to light the flame to symbolise Japan’s post-war reconstruction and commitment to peace. At the time, sports commentators labelled him ‘the Hiroshima Boy.’

While the nations compete at the Tokyo games this summer, there are four clear indicators that the world is not safe while we sit and watch.

1, It is now estimated that the Covid-19 pandemic will kill well over two million people around the globe. Nuclear weapons have failed to protect the world – have failed to protect us – against this mass killer. We may yet find we are facing wave after wave of pandemics, but the world’s nuclear powers have learned nothing and continue to spend money needed for health care and research on weapons that are useless against this global threat to our security and our survival.

Indeed, the mishandling of this grave global health crisis is a ‘wake-up call’ that governments, institutions, and a misled public remain unprepared to handle the even greater threats posed by nuclear war and climate change.

2, The failure of the world powers to deal with climate change and global warming show the folly of using the world’s scarce resources for the pleasure of the rich of this generation. Fires continue to rage across Greece and Turkey as I speak, and no amount of spending on nuclear weapons can ever protect us against climate change and global warming, against the folly of world leaders who have brought this crisis to a head in our generation.

3, Cyber security has shown how vulnerable, how weak, every country in the world is today. It was Ireland’s hospitals and health service that were targeted in recent weeks. But it was also oil supplies on the east coast of the US, trains in Britain, Iran and Australia, cabinet offices in Poland and Japan, Dutch police, the supply chains of major food suppliers in Australia, Brazil, Canada and the US … all in recent weeks.

Nuclear weapons are no protection against people who are waging a new, low-level, cold war that is warning us that everything is vulnerable, everything can collapse, everything can grind to halt. And if the para-state hackers get into the command and control systems of nuclear arsenals, all guided missiles become mass killers with the capacity to destroy all life as we know it.

4, Nuclear weapons cannot protect the victims of human rights abuses, the migrants caught in the waters of the Mediterranean or between Calais and Dover, or the people increasingly denied access to clean water, food or affordable medical care.

Nuclear weapons cannot protect girls denied access to education, the victims of gender-based violence, or stop the rise of racism, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and hate crime.

Nuclear weapons cannot open the eyes of a blinkered Priti Patel or roll back the folly of Brexit in Boris Johnson’s Britain, where £205 billion is being spent on replacing Trident, Britain’s nuclear weapons system – money that public morality says must be spent instead on meeting genuine security needs: providing a properly-funded NHS and a sustainable energy sector.

This year, the Doomsday Clock of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists remains as close to midnight as it has ever been – just 100 seconds to midnight.

Dr Rachel Bronson of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists says the ‘lethal and fear-inspiring’ Covid-19 pandemic is as a ‘wake-up call,’ a vivid illustration that national governments and international organisations are ‘unprepared to manage the truly civilisation-ending threats of nuclear weapons and climate change.’

But Yoshinori Sakai was like so many hibakusha. He too succumbed as a victim of the bomb, and he died of cerebral bleeding in Tokyo at the age 69, 50 years after the first Tokyo Olympics, on 10 September 2014.

Before this year’s Tokyo Olympics began on 23 July, the Olympic torch relay passed through Hiroshima on Monday 17 May. There were few participants because of the pandemic. But one of the torchbearers was Yoshinori Sakai’s younger brother, Takayuki Sakai. He was part of the group who brought the Olympic flame to the city’s Peace Memorial Park, near the epicentre of the atomic bombing.

There should be no more Yoshinori Sakais, no more hibakusha.

It is time to listen to the wake-up call of the Doomsday Clock. Nuclear weapons protect us against none of the threats we face in the world today. They never protected us against the threats the world faced in the past. And they have no place in the world as face the challenges of the future.

(Revd Canon Professor) Patrick Comerford is President of the Irish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (Irish CND). He was speaking at Irish CND’s annual Hiroshima Day commemoration at the Hiroshima Memorial in Merrion Square, Dublin.

Praying in Ordinary Time 2021:
69, Church of Saint Spyridon, Palaiokastritsa

The Church of Saint Spyridon is squeezed in between the coffee bars and a souvenir shop (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

The prayer diary of the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel) is focussing this week on USPG’s links with the Nippon Sei Ko Kai, the Anglican Church in Japan, and this week’s anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima on 6 August 1945.

Later today, as President of the Irish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (Irish CND), I am speaking at the Hiroshima Day commemorations in Merrion Square, Dublin. But, before the day gets busy, I am taking a little time this morning for prayer, reflection and reading.

During this time in the Church Calendar known as Ordinary Time, I am taking some time each morning to reflect in these ways:

1, photographs of a church or place of worship;

2, the day’s Gospel reading;

3, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary.

This week’s theme is seven churches on the Greek island of Corfu, and my photographs this morning (6 August 2021) are of the Church of Saint Spyridon in Palaiokastritsa.

Inside the Church of Saint Spyridon in Palaiokastritsa (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Paleokastritsa is a popular family resort on the north-west coast of Corfu, about 25 km from Corfu Town. There are three main coves – Agia Triada, Platakia and Alipa – and many other tiny, secluded beaches around it, separated by the round-shaped capes.

My visit to Paleokastritsa was short, however, and I never got to visit Angelokastro or the monasteries of Palaiokastritsa and the Theotokos. But close to the main beach, jutting awkwardly between the coffee bars and a souvenir shop opposite the chaotic car park is the tiny, pink Church of Saint Spyridon, with a bell tower built in 2002.

Saint Spyridon was born in 270 AD in Assia, a village in Cyprus. He took part in the First Ecumenical Council of Nicaea (325), countering the theological arguments of Arius and his followers. He was the Bishop of Trimythous, near Larnaca in Cyprus, until he died in 348 AD. When the Arabs conquered Cyprus, his body was moved to Constantinople. After Constantinople fell in 1453, the relics of Saint Spyridon and Saint Theodora were brought to Corfu.

Saint Spyridon became the patron saint of Corfu, and Spyridon, or Spyros, is a popular name throughout the island. His feast day is on 12 December.

The Church Saint Spyridon in Palaiokastritsa is so small it is hard to imagine it holding a congregation of more than 10 people. But the door is open, candles are lit, and tourists are made to feel welcome to pop in and look at the icons or find time to pray.

The icons are all modern, with two archangels flanking the iconostasis or icon screen, which includes an interesting icon of the Samaritan woman at the well, and topped with a row of 12 icons of the apostles.

Keeping a traditional yet modern church like this open for the curious and for tourists in the middle of a busy resort beside a popular beach strikes me as a fine example of what mission should be today.

The Church of Saint Spyridon, Palaiokastritsa, can hold a congregation of no more than about 10 people (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Luke 9: 28-36 (NRSVA):

28 Now about eight days after these sayings Jesus took with him Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray. 29 And while he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white. 30 Suddenly they saw two men, Moses and Elijah, talking to him. 31 They appeared in glory and were speaking of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. 32 Now Peter and his companions were weighed down with sleep; but since they had stayed awake, they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him. 33 Just as they were leaving him, Peter said to Jesus, ‘Master, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah’—not knowing what he said. 34 While he was saying this, a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were terrified as they entered the cloud. 35 Then from the cloud came a voice that said, ‘This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!’ 36 When the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silent and in those days told no one any of the things they had seen.

Saint Spyridon (centre) in a fresco in the Church of Saint Spyridon, Palaiokastritsa (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Prayer in the USPG Prayer Diary:

The Prayer in the USPG Prayer Diary today (6 August 2021) invites us to pray:

We thank God for the gift of ecumenical collaboration in Hiroshima and around the world. May the church of Christ always seek to walk closer together, learning from one another.

The Collect of the Day:

Father in heaven,
whose Son Jesus Christ was wonderfully transfigured
before chosen witnesses upon the holy mountain,
and spoke of the exodus he would accomplish at Jerusalem:
Give us strength so to hear his voice and bear our cross in this world,
that in the world to come we may see him as he is;
where he is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

An icon of Christ as the King of Kings and Great High Priest in the Church of Saint Spyridon, Palaiokastritsa (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition copyright © 1989, 1995, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org

The bells of the Church of Saint Spyridon, Palaiokastritsa (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)