16 July 2020

Christ Crucified on the Mushroom Cloud:
the ‘Trinity’ test 75 years ago on 16 July

Christ crucified on the Mushroom Cloud … the icon of Our Lady of Mount Carmel by Kristin McCarthy

Patrick Comerford

I have been invited once again this year to speak at the annual Hiroshima Day commemorations organised by the Irish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) on 6 August in Merrion Square, Dublin.

The 75th anniversary of the end of World War II has been marked in commemorations and at events throughout this year, and 6 August marks the 75th anniversary of the dropping on the first atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima in 1945.

Today [16 July 1945] also marks the 75th anniversary of the first atomic explosion in the US at the Trinity test site near Alamogordo, in the New Mexico desert on 16 July 1945.

Trinity was the code name of the first detonation of a nuclear device. The explosion was carried out by the US army at 5.29 a.m. on 16 July 1945, as part of the Manhattan Project, in the Jornada del Muerto desert, about 56 km south-east of Socorro, New Mexico. The test was of an implosion-design plutonium device, nicknamed ‘The Gadget’ of the same design as the Fat Man bomb later detonated over Nagasaki on 9 August 1945.

The code name ‘Trinity’ was chosen by J Robert Oppenheimer (1904-1967), the director of the Los Alamos Laboratory, who later said his choice was inspired by the poetry of John Donne and his references the God as Trinity.

Leslie Groves, director of the Manhattan Project, wrote to Oppenheimer in 1962, asking him about the origin of the name, and whether he had chosen it because it was a name common to rivers and peaks in the West and would not attract attention.

Oppenheimer replied: ‘I did suggest it, but not on that ground … Why I chose the name is not clear, but I know what thoughts were in my mind. There is a poem of John Donne, written just before his death, which I know and love. From it a quotation:

‘As west and east
In all flat maps (and I am one) are one,
So death doth touch the resurrection.’

However, these lines by Donne do for not refer to the Trinity.

The Catholic anti-war movement has built on the coincidence between this date and the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, which also falls on 16 July.

Thirty years ago, in 1990, Father Emmanuel Charles McCarthy, a priest of the Eastern Rite Melkite Church, an Orthodox-style Church in communion with the Roman Catholic Church, initiated the ‘16 July Twenty-Four Hours Day of Prayer,’ for Forgiveness and Protection with Our Lady of Mount Carmel, at Trinity Site in the New Mexico desert.

Father Charles was ordained a priest in Damascus, Syria, on 9 August 1981. He has served as spiritual director and rector of Saint Gregory the Theologian Melkite Catholic Seminary in Newton, Massachusetts, and is now a retreat director.

He graduated from the University of Notre Dame in Indiana in 1962, and lectured there, becoming the founder and the original director of the Program for the Study and Practice of Nonviolent Conflict Resolution. He is also co-founder, with Dorothy Day, Gordon Zahn and others, of Pax Christi USA.

In 1983, he began the Annual Forty Day Fast for the Truth of Gospel Nonviolence, from 1 July to 9 August. In 1990, he initiated the July 16 Twenty-Four Hours Day of Prayer for Forgiveness and Protection with Our Lady of Mount Carmel at Trinity Site in the New Mexico desert.

Each year on 16 July, a prayer vigil is conducted at the Trinity site to pray for peace and the elimination of nuclear weapons.

The 24-hour prayer vigil at the Trinity site in New Mexico each year lasts from 6 p.m. on 15 July to 6 p.m. on 16 July.

Father Charles invites people who cannot make the journey to Trinity Site ‘to set aside a piece of time that day … to pray that humanity be protected and saved from the scourge of evil that human beings have brought upon themselves.’

The ‘Statement of Purpose of the Day of Prayer,’ used at the vigil for the past 30 years, says:

‘July 16 is the symbol and reality of weaponry that kills even if it is never used, as well as weaponry that kills long after it is used. By its cost alone it murders the working class and poor by depriving them of indispensable resources, which they need to live, and to which every human being has an inalienable right – a right conferred simply by the fact that he or she is a human being.

‘Once the soul and the soil are seeded by the production of such weapons, no one on the planet can protect himself or herself from being contaminated by their ever-mutating spiritual and physical manifestations. They have already created within humanity a cauldron of physical, spiritual, social, personal, and economic pathologies that have infected and affected humanity in ways never before seen.

‘Every child in the womb, every farm, every lake, every person, every person’s loved ones and offspring for untold generations must eventually wind up living downwind from the mushroom cloud.’

An Icon of Our Lady of Mount Carmel by Kristin McCarthy, daughter of Father Charles McCarthy, shows Our Lady of Mount Carmel at the Trinity Site with an image of Christ crucified on the nuclear mushroom cloud.

Today [16 July 2020], the Beyond Nuclear project, in partnership with the Nuclear Free Future Foundation, the Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung and IPPNW, is marking the anniversary by launching the first global Uranium Atlas, in English. The Atlas maps uranium across the world, from the first ores mined to the first cupful of radioactive waste – and the legacy resulting in nuclear weapons and nuclear power.

You can join the online launch then, at this link: www.rosalux.de/livestream

Hymn to God, My God, in My Sickness, by John Donne

Since I am coming to that holy room,
Where, with thy choir of saints for evermore,
I shall be made thy music; as I come
I tune the instrument here at the door,
And what I must do then, think here before.

Whilst my physicians by their love are grown
Cosmographers, and I their map, who lie
Flat on this bed, that by them may be shown
That this is my south-west discovery,
Per fretum febris, by these straits to die,

I joy, that in these straits I see my west;
For, though their currents yield return to none,
What shall my west hurt me? As west and east
In all flat maps (and I am one) are one,
So death doth touch the resurrection.

Is the Pacific Sea my home? Or are
The eastern riches? Is Jerusalem?
Anyan, and Magellan, and Gibraltar,
All straits, and none but straits, are ways to them,
Whether where Japhet dwelt, or Cham, or Shem.

We think that Paradise and Calvary,
Christ’s cross, and Adam’s tree, stood in one place;
Look, Lord, and find both Adams met in me;
As the first Adam’s sweat surrounds my face,
May the last Adam’s blood my soul embrace.

So, in his purple wrapp’d, receive me, Lord;
By these his thorns, give me his other crown;
And as to others’ souls I preach’d thy word,
Be this my text, my sermon to mine own:
‘Therefore that he may raise, the Lord throws down.’

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