Pope Francis has declared that nuclear weapons hold international relations hostage and stifle peaceful coexistence, reports CNS.
“The threat of their use as well as their very possession is to be firmly condemned,” the Pope told participants at a two-day conference on nuclear disarmament hosted by the Vatican on the weekend.
For years, popes and Catholic leaders had said the policy of nuclear deterrence could be morally acceptable as long as real work was underway on a complete ban of the weapons. In condemning possession of the weapons, Pope Francis seemed to indicate that deterrence is no longer acceptable.
Nuclear weapons “exist in the service of a mentality of fear that affects not only the parties in conflict but the entire human race,” he said.
The conference, sponsored by the Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, brought together 11 Nobel laureates, top officials from the United Nations and NATO, diplomats from around the world and experts in nuclear weapons and the disarmament process. They were joined by scholars, activists and representatives of bishops’ conferences, including Stephen Colecchi, director of the US bishops’ Office of International Justice and Peace.
Several speakers, including Masako Wada, one of the last survivors of the US atomic bombing of Hiroshima in 1945, were to discuss the suffering wrought by nuclear arms.
Pope Francis told the group that the “essential” witness of survivors of the bombings in Japan as well as those suffering the effects of nuclear weapons testing are prophetic voices that serve “as a warning, above all for coming generations.”
In his speech, the Pontiff said that when it comes to the ideal of a nuclear-free world, a “certain pessimism” exists and brings with it “considerable expense” as nations modernise their nuclear arsenals.
“As a result, the real priorities facing our human family, such as the fight against poverty, the promotion of peace, the undertaking of educational, ecological and health care projects, and the development of human rights, are relegated to second place,” he said.