January 1 has already passed. Sometimes we miss the significance of this year, as we are so often drowned out by the noise of the previous evenings celebration and desires for a “better” year to come. Pope Francis did not forget the fact that January 1st is the Roman Catholic Church’s World Peace Day. In preparation for this year’s event, Pope Francis commissioned a reprinting of the photograph below.
The image was taken by Joe O’Donnell, a US Marine photographer after US forces dropped atomic bombs on Japan at the end of World War II. The photograph shows a boy waiting in line as he carries his dead five-year-old brother to the crematorium. A poignant and truly sad image. O’Donnell spent the next four years documenting the aftermath of the bombings and their impact on the population.
In addition to the photograph, Pope Francis adding this own signature with the comment:
“The young boy’s sadness is expressed only in his gesture of biting his lips which are oozing blood.”
Pope Francis reminds us of the tremendous sadness and tragedy which has been wrought in our world in the past year, and the need for actions and prayer to change the outlook for the future. He calls us to remember we are called to support the needy and the huge number of displaced children and their families in the wars raging in the world.
This is not a popular message amongst many. Wars have consequences and victims. Let us all pray and act in 2018 to reduce this pain, in whatever way we can affect the outcome.
In his address, Pope Francis was talking to the 40,000 crowd assembled in person outside the Vatican, but his message was to the entire world.
I find I have nothing to add to his observations, just some resolve as I dry the tears from my eyes.
Photograph by Joe O’Donnell