The End of World War II
Note: Today Father Fraser played a short excerpt of a historical broadcast for us to listen to. The original broadcast was 47 minutes long. We heard a couple of minutes. . .
That was the voice of the Emperor Showa, then called Hirohito. It was broadcast on Aug 15th, 1945, Japan time, which would be today MDT, exactly 70 years ago. It’s called in Japanese the gyokuon-hoso, the jewel voice Broadcast. If you didn’t understand it, neither did most Japanese. The language was ancient Japanese used only at royal court. Except for the court itself, no one in Japan had ever heard his voice.
Most people were not sure what he said: was it, continue fighting, or do we surrender? The Emperor didn’t achieve peace, expressing sorrow for all the Japanese who died and ending with the most famous part:
“It is according to the dictates of time and fate that we come to enduring the unendurable and suffering the insufferable.”
After the surrender, Hirohito was not executed, as many- including himself- thought would happen. But he would never be very popular in Japan again. The war had been fought and lost in his name. But the war WAS over. For Japan, it had lasted over 9 years, less in other countries. Hundreds of millions of people killed, even more seriously wounded, even more homeless and destitute. Entire cities had been completely destroyed. Empires were no more and ethnic hatreds would continue even to the present day.
When I was in high school, I first learned about the Hundred Years’ War between England and France from the mid-14th century to the mid-15th Century. I could not then comprehend how a war could last a hundred years. Well, a case can be made that the US Civil war of 150 years ago is not yet over. I also think that the causes of the Second World War continue.
Certainly, everything changed. Not just in terms of the incredible violence and destruction, but also in the way people live and believe, or don’t believe. Religion today is more cultural than theological. “Before the war”, a phrase I heard often in my childhood, people usually did not move from where they were born. After the war, cultural norms and religious values completely shifted.
Some say the Second Vatican Council changed the Catholic Church—true enough. But it was the Second World War that really changed the Church. Not to forget, most Catholic bishops supported Hitler.
The moral and spiritual authority of the Church is still not universally respected. Our hope, our only hope, as a species, resides in the generation we are now educating. As mentioned, this year’s freshman class is the first class born in the 21st century. They have no living memory of the 20th century. Let us hope they will recover what was lost and then clean up the mess they have inherited. There are still people alive who remember the Second World War, even the Pope was 8 years old 70 years ago. He has pointed the Church in a new direction. I pray he lives long enough to effect that. I am not one who thinks the end of the world is upon us, but many do. Not when I see these kids, born in a new century more educated than their predecessors and more prepared to live lives for the betterment of humanity. To many people, God took a vacation during WWII. Let us pray that he is more visible in own lives and in the lives of those entrusted to our care.