The remains of a statue of the Virgin Mary that survived the nuclear bombing of Nagasaki is to be exhibited in New York ahead of an international conference aimed at curbing arms proliferation, says the Roman Catholic Church in the Japanese city.
Hisashi Yukimoto writes that the wooden statue of the mother of Jesus, which stood in Urakami Cathedral in the western Japanese city, was almost completely destroyed by the atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki by theUS Air Force in the last days of the Second World War on 9 August 1945. Only Mary's head remained intact. The cathedral itself was reduced to rubble.
"It [the head] will be shown while prayers are said during a Mass [in New York]", Midori Shikayama, an official of the Nagasaki archdiocese's public relations department, told Ecumenical News International.
Shikayama explained it will be the first time the statue has visited the United States when it is shown during the Mass at St Patrick's Cathedral in New York City on 2 May 2010. The following day, a 26-days-long UN conference reviewing the treaty on the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons begins.
The service will form part of the visit to New York by Nagasaki's Archbishop Joseph Mitsuaki Takami, an A-bomb survivor. The visit is due to begin on 30 April to coincide with the United Nations conference.
In February, Takami and the Catholic bishop of Hiroshima, Joseph Atsumi Misue, appealed to world leaders for the total abolition of nuclear weapons. Hiroshima was the first city to suffer a nuclear bombing on 6 August 1945. Nagasaki was the second city to suffer a similar fate three days later.
The Nagasaki archdiocese said that, from 3 May, Takami is likely to meet the UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, or his deputy, to hand over the statement calling for the abolition of nuclear weapons, and is also likely to meet the UN treaty conference president-elect, Libran Nuevas Cabactulan.
Takami was born in March 1946, in Nagasaki. His mother was pregnant with him when the Japanese city was bombed. About 74,000 people died due to the bombing.
February Catholic statement on nuclear weapons (*.PDF Adobe Acrobat format): http://hiroshima.catholic.jp/pdf/100226engAbolNucWeapon.pdf 
[With acknowledgements to ENI. Ecumenical News International  is jointly sponsored by the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches and the Conference of European Churches.]