Report of August 6 Hiroshima Commemoration Witness at Pentagon — Peacemakers Hold a Liturgy of Repentance and Resistance–Two Risk Arrest But Are Not Arrested– NCR Article by Art


by Daniel Berrigan, SJ

At Hiroshima there’s a museum 

and outside that museum there’s a rock, 

and on that rock there’s a shadow. 

That shadow is all that remains 

of the human being who stood there on August 6, 1945 

when the nuclear age began. 

In the most real sense of the word, 

that is the choice before us. 

We shall either end war and the nuclear arms race now in this generation,

or we will become Shadows On the Rock. 


Dear Friends,

Today, August 6 (the feast of Transfiguration), from 7:30-8:30 AM 10 peace and justice makers from the faith-based peace community in D.C., Virginia and Maryland, held a prayer witness of repentance at the Pentagon to commemorate the 74th anniversary of the U.S. nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and to call for the abolition of nuclear weapons. This witness was organized by the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker. 

We gathered for our Liturgy of Repentance in the Pentagon police designated protest zone which is located in an enclosed space behind a bicycle fence on the southeast corner of the Pentagon near the south parking lot. As hundreds of civilian and military workers streamed into the Pentagon, they saw our sign and large banner: “U.S. Nuclear Bombing of Hiroshima, August, 6, 1945—Repent,” and: “Remembering the Pain, Repenting the Sin, Reclaiming the Future—Aug. 6-9 Hiroshima & Nagasaki.” The banner also depicted a drawing of an A-Bomb child victim.  Powerful, harrowing photos of Hiroshima victims and the destruction of Hiroshima were also displayed. 

The prayer service began with a statement/prayer which Marie Dennis and I offered (see below). We all then read the “Apology Petition” to the people of Japan that was shared and presented three years ago to Mr. Mimaki, a Hiroshima Hibakusha, during our August 6, 2016 White House commemoration witness. Over 700 people signed the petition. At the conclusion of this petition I sang the A-Bomb Survivors song. 

Dan Moriarty then read the Gospel account of the transfiguration of Jesus, which was followed by Jack McHale and Ken Cooper offering a Litany of Repentance and community prayers. Malachy Kilbride read Dan Berrigan’s poem: “Shadow on the Rock.”  We then sang “I Come and Stand.”  

At about 8:10, to mark the time of the U.S. nuclear bombing of Hiroshima, Malachy Kilbride and I walked outside the designated protest zone to the Pentagon sidewalk holding a photo of the destroyed city of Hiroshima with the caption “NO MORE HIROSHIMAS,” and a sign that said: “U.S.–RATIFY THE U.N. TREATY TO PROHIBIT NUCLEAR WEAPONS NOW!”  As we knelt in silence, Pentagon workers and soldiers walked by us. Rev. Chuck Booker led a prayer and song during this time from the designated protest area. To our surprise the police on duty, whom we had exchanged friendly greetings before the vigil and who remarked that our numbers were small, kept close watch over us from several yards away. But they never approached us to instruct us to return to the designated protest area or face arrest. This was very unusual as almost always, with several exceptions, Pentagon police quickly arrest peacemakers who witness outside the designated protest zone. After 20 minutes, it became clear that the police, for reasons unknown,  were not going to arrest us. So Malachy and I rejoined the others for a closing circle. 

In short, the intent of this witness is to remember the victims, to uphold and proclaim God’s command, “Thou shalt not kill” and those International laws and treaties which prohibit nuclear weapons, not to break the law. We act to prevent a crime, not to commit a crime. We demand that the powers that be cease its immoral and criminal nuclear war preparations, uphold God’s law, ratify the U.N. Treaty to Prohibit Nuclear Weapons and abolish war and all weapons of war! The time is now to heed the urgent appeal of the Hibakusha (A-Bomb Survivors):

Humankind can’t coexist with nuclear weapons!”

At this time, as we witness in solidarity with people around the world calling for nuclear abolition, we remember in a special way the Kings Bay Plowshares 7 who will have an important pre-trial court hearing in the U.S. District Court in Brunswick, Georgia tomorrow, Aug. 7.  The hearing will included the KBP7 offering oral arguments regarding why they should be allowed to use the Religious Freedom Restoration Act in their defense. The KBP7 face 25 years in prison for their April 4, 2018 plowshares witness to disarm the Trident nuclear submarine program at the Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base in St. Mary’s, Georgia. For more info see:

For those who are local, please join us on Friday, August 9th from Noon – 1:00 PM, where there will be a Prayer Service of Repentance outside the White House to commemorate the U.S. nuclear bombing of Nagasaki and to call for the abolition of all nuclear weapons. We have invited a Hiroshima survivor to join with us for this witness. Due to construction of the new scandalous $64 million White House fence being constructed, we will meet on the north side of the White House on Pennsylvania Ave.–across from Lafayette Park–to the left of the fenced off construction area as you face the White House. 

Co-Sponsors for the August 6-9 commemoration witness include: Pax Christi Metro-DC, Pax Christi USA, Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach, Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns, the Sisters of MercyInstitute Justice Team, Franciscan Action Network, Assisi Community, Jonah House, Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd–U.S. Provinces, Conference of Major Superiors of Men–Justice and Peace, Leadership Conference of Women Religious–Social Mission

Finally, the National Catholic Reporter published today a piece I wrote to commemorate the Aug. 6-9 U.S. nuclear bombings of Japan. Please see:

With hope for a disarmed world,



Opening Statement/Prayer at Aug. 6th Pentagon Prayer of Repentance

Response: We Repent for the Nuclear Sin-Abolish Nuclear Weapons Now 

Good Morning to all who work here at the Pentagon. We, members of the Dorothy Catholic Worker and other religious communities, come to the Pentagon in a spirit of Gospel nonviolence, to commemorate the U.S. nuclear bombings of Japan, to repent the nuclear sin and to  create a world without weapons of mass murder and war. 

We Repent for the Nuclear Sin-Abolish Nuclear Weapons Now

Thomas Merton, in his “Original Child Bomb,” describes the firepower, death and destruction that was unleashed on Hiroshima:”The bomb exploded within 100 feet of the aiming point. The fireball was 18,000 feet across. The temperature at the center of the fireball was 100,000,000 degrees. The people who were near the center became nothing. The whole city was blown to bits and the ruins all caught fire instantly everywhere, burning briskly.  70,000 people were killed right away or died within a few hours. Those who did not die at once suffered great pain.”

We Repent for the Nuclear Sin-Abolish Nuclear Weapons Now

The powers that be want us to believe that nuclear weapons were used to save American lives and end WWII. This is a fallacy! Both General Eisenhower, and Admiral Leahy, head of the Joint Chiefs Of Staff, opposed using the atomic bomb. They declared that Japan was already defeated and on the verge of surrender and, as Eisenhower stated, “that dropping the bomb was completely unnecessary” and “no longer mandatory as a measure to save American lives.”

We Repent for the Nuclear Sin-Abolish Nuclear Weapons Now

According to Gar Alperovitz, in his compelling book, Atomic Diplomacy, nuclear weapons were used against the Japanese primarily for two reasons: “first, the U.S. wanted to hasten its victory over Japan without the aid of the Russians, who were about to enter the war; second, and most importantly, President Truman intended to threaten the Russians and warn them not to challenge U.S. plans for organizing the postwar world.”

We Repent for the Nuclear Sin-Abolish Nuclear Weapons Now

The U.S. has never repented for the use of these barbarous weapons of indiscriminate mass murder. The violence unleashed at Hiroshima set in motion a trajectory of unrelenting violence by the U.S. in the wars of aggression that it has waged over the last seven decades in many countries, claiming untold lives. Moreover, the U.S. has continued to build even deadlier weapons which endanger all of creation. Beginning with the Manhattan Project in 1940, the U.S. has spent over $10 trillion on its nuclear weapons program. Today the U.S. possess over 6,000 nuclear weapons, many of which are on hair-trigger alert, and proposes to spend an estimated $1 trillion over the next 30 years to modernize its existing nuclear arsenal. This includes the W76-2 Trident nuclear warhead, which is designed to carry a relatively small destructive payload of five kilotons, far less than the 100 kiloton thermonuclear warheads with which Trident missiles are currently armed. This reduction fulfills the Trump administration’s quest for nuclear-war-fighting “flexibility,” as outlined in the Pentagon’s new nuclear war doctrine titled “Nuclear Operations.” This deadly venture not only endangers the world but represents a direct theft from the poor of our nation and world. 

We Repent for the Nuclear Sin-Abolish Nuclear Weapons Now

The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists has turned its “Doomsday Clock” to 2 minutes before midnight to signify the perilous situation facing the world due to the dangers of nuclear war and the climate crisis. This peril has been exacerbated by contradictory and belligerent comments by a U.S. president who has threatened to attack Iran, as well as by the U.S. conducting a sub-critical nuclear test in February, and withdrawing from the Iran Nuclear Deal and the INF Treaty with Russia. As a leading nuclear superpower, the U.S. practices a double standard by calling on other nations to disarm while, at the same time, it refuses to disarm and instead is rapidly expanding its own arsenal.

We Repent for the Nuclear Sin-Abolish Nuclear Weapons Now

On July 7, 2017, at the conclusion of a special “UN Conference To Negotiate a Legally Binding Instrument to Prohibit Nuclear Weapons,” 122 countries voted in favor of historic treaty to legally prohibit nuclear weapons. To date 23 countries have ratified it. The “Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons,” bans nuclear weapons and establishes a framework for the elimination of nuclear weapons programs – including warheads, materials, delivery systems and facilities. We call on the U.S., the only country to have ever used nuclear weapons, to endorse this treaty and to lead the way to total worldwide nuclear disarmament. 

We Repent for the Nuclear Sin-Abolish Nuclear Weapons Now

Pope Francis declared: “If we also take into account the risk of an accidental detonation as a result of error of any kind, the threat of their use, as well as their very possession is to be firmly condemned… Weapons of mass destruction, particularly nuclear weapons, create nothing but a false sense of security. They cannot constitute the basis for peaceful coexistence between members of the human family…The total elimination of nuclear weapons is “both a challenge and a moral and humanitarian imperative” of our time.  

We Repent for the Nuclear Sin-Abolish Nuclear Weapons Now

If it is wrong to possess nuclear weapons then it is wrong to use them under any circumstance. This means that any one in the military chain of command must refuse orders to ever use these or other similar murderous weapons. 

We Repent for the Nuclear Sin-Abolish Nuclear Weapons Now

Today, we witness in solidarity with all who are holding commemoration actions and events during Aug. 6-9, including in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, as well as at nuclear weapons facilities throughout the U.S. We also remember in a special way the Kings Bay Plowshares 7 who will have a pre-trial court hearing in the U.S. District Court in Brunswick, GA on Aug. 7. The KBP7 face 25 years in prison for their April 4, 2018 plowshares witness to disarm the Trident submarine program at the Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base in St. Mary’s, Georgia. 

We Repent for the Nuclear Sin-Abolish Nuclear Weapons Now

The A-Bomb Survivors (Hibakusha) plead to the world: “Humankind can’t coexist with nuclear weapons.” We invite all Pentagon workers–military and civilian–to join with us and all those worldwide who are working to abolish nuclear weapons. May the mortal sin of using nuclear weapons never be repeated again! 

We Repent for the Nuclear Sin-Abolish Nuclear Weapons Now

Published in: on August 6, 2019 at 8:17 pm  Leave a Comment  

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