Late on December 30, Pope Francis called on Vatican media to distribute a copy of a famous photograph taken by a U.S. Marine in the days that followed the atomic bombing of Nagasaki in 1945. The photo shows a young Japanese boy, aged approximately 10 years, bearing his baby brother on his back. The young Japanese boy was waiting in line with others to see his brother's body cremated.

The photo was distributed by the Vatican in the form of a postcard on the back of which bears the words in Italian, "The fruit of war" and the pope's signature. 

At the bottom of the reverse of the postcard is an explanation provided by the pope. He explained that U.S. Marine Corps photographer Joseph Roger O'Donnell took the photograph, having been assigned to document the devastation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki by the atomic bombs dropped by the United States. O'Donnell remained in Japan for four years after the Second World War to document the damages caused by war. In Spanish, he wrote: "A boy waiting his turn at the crematorium with his dead brother on his back. It is the photo taken by American photographer Joseph Roger O'Donnell after the atomic bombing in Nagasaki. The sadness of the child is expressed only by his bitten lips, oozing blood."

L'Osservatore Romano -- the Vatican's newspaper -- printed a copy of the photograph and pope's explanation on the back page of its January 1 edition. The first day of the year is the Catholic Church's World Peace Day.

In 1939, physicists Albert Einstein, left, and Leo Szilard drafted a letter to U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, urging him to research atomic bombs before the Germans could build one. In 1942, the United States approved the top-secret Manhattan Project to build a nuclear reactor and assemble an atomic bomb. President Franklin Roosevelt appointed U.S. Army Col. Leslie R. Groves to head the Manhattan Project. Among the scientists involved in the project was physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer, who led the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico.

Vatican analyst John Allen wrote on his website: "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." 

Pope Francis has frequently condemned war the use of atomic weapons.



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Spero News writer Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.

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