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Remembering the Ruins of the Urakami Cathedral

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Providence or Fifth Persecution?

image of Journal of Religion in Japan

When Urakami Cathedral was rebuilt in 1959, many citizens experienced the loss of the ruins as a silencing of Nagasaki’s experience. This paper explores Catholic survivors’ attitudes towards the Cathedral and loss of an important atomic relic, and shows that while they regret the ruins’ disappearance, they also recognise the rebuilt Cathedral as a symbol of survival. In addition, by examining individual and collective narrative and photographic images, it is demonstrated that Urakami Christian (kirishitan キリシタン) narratives on the Cathedral bond the trauma of the bomb to older memories of persecution, which in turn intensifies the justification for rebuilding the church. By placing such communal memory in the context of theologian Johann Baptist Metz’s conception of the ‘dangerous memory’ of suffering, the author evaluates narratives such as Nagai Takashi’s providence (go-setsuri ご摂理) and interpretation of the bombing as the Urakami ‘Fifth Persecution’ (go-ban kuzure 五番崩れ).

Affiliations: 1: Monash University


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