ABOARD THE PAPAL PLANE — As he did during the Christmas season, Francis circulated an image of a young boy carrying his dead brother on his back, taken after the atomic bomb in Nagasaki, on the plane full of journalists accompanying him on his Jan. 15-21 trip to Chile and Peru.
Through his spokesman, Francis handed each of the journalists a copy of the 1945 picture by American journalist Joseph Roger O’Donnell, portraying a boy who’s waiting for his turn at the crematory to hand in his younger brother’s body.
The pope told reporters that he found it by chance, and was moved upon seeing it.
On the other side, it has the phrase “…the fruit of war,” and his signature.
“I thought about making copies of it because an image like this says more than a thousand words,” the pope told the journalists who are traveling with him. The choice to hand out the photograph is in tune with the them of his visit to Chile, “my peace I give you.”
Francis has spoken about the effects of nuclear weapons several times before. On the plane, as he greeted one of the reporters, he once again spoke about his fears over a possible nuclear war, saying that these weapons “need to be destroyed,” something he’s advocated for at several opportunities.
In November 2017, during a conference held in the Vatican on nuclear disarmament, the pope said that “international relations cannot be held captive to military force, mutual intimidation, and the parading of stockpiles of arms.”
The world cannot but be “genuinely concerned” by the “catastrophic humanitarian and environmental effects,” of deploying nuclear devices, taking into account also the possibility of an accidental detonation. The threat of their use, as well as their existence, has to be “firmly condemned.”
Visibly relaxed and in a good mood, the pope joked with several journalists. One of the Italian journalists, for instance, asked Francis for the contact information for his doctor, praising his health and his ability to continue on full steam despite his age.
The pontiff responded by saying that he doesn’t go to the doctor but to a witch.
Francis spent almost an hour individually greeting each of the 73 journalists on board the Alitalia flight AZ 4000.
Many presented him with gifts, including a replica of a green Ford truck that was used by St. Alberto Hurtado, a Chilean, to pick up homeless people from the streets and bring them to the many refuges he had in Santiago. The pope will honor the late Jesuit priest this week, in a visit to the St. Alberto Hurtado shrine. The truck, which was recently repaired, will lead the caravan taking the pope from the Cathedral to the shrine on Tuesday.
Francis is also expected to encounter some 100 beneficiaries from Hogar de Cristo, a charitable foundation Hurtado built to help those in need.
He was moved by the gift, and asked those helping him save the presents to keep it at hand. Similarly, a Peruvian journalist presented him with a 1908 front page of his newspaper, on the date Pope Francis’s soccer team, San Lorenzo, was founded.
The same journalist presented him with a biography of St. Martin de Porres, a Peruvian saint, telling the pontiff that he’d heard he was an admirer of the saint. Francis, however, said that his admiration was more for the broom Porres is usually illustrated with: when someone bothers him, the pope said, he prays to the saint so that he “sweeps them away.”