Pope Francis: Possession of Nuclear Arms ‘Is to Be Firmly Condemned’

Pope Francis looks on at the end of a private audience with President of Sierra Leone at the Vatican, on November 11, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / POOL / TONY GENTILE (Photo credit should read TONY GENTILE/AFP/Getty Images)

Pope Francis has gone further than any of his predecessors in denouncing the arms race, saying that not only the use or massive stockpiling of nuclear arms, but their very possession is worthy of condemnation.

We cannot fail to be genuinely concerned by “the catastrophic humanitarian and environmental effects of any employment of nuclear devices,” the pope said Friday. “If we also take into account the risk of an accidental detonation as a result of error of any kind, the threat of their use, as well as their very possession, is to be firmly condemned.”

In his address to participants in an international symposium titled “Prospects for a World Free from Nuclear Arms and for Integral Disarmament,” the pope said the current international scene is “marked as it is by a climate of instability and conflict.”

A certain pessimism might make us think that prospects for a world free from nuclear arms “appear increasingly remote,” Francis said. “Indeed, the escalation of the arms race continues unabated and the price of modernizing and developing weaponry, not only nuclear weapons, represents a considerable expense for nations.”

The pope said that spending on arms takes needed funds away from more important concerns such as “the fight against poverty, the promotion of peace, the undertaking of educational, ecological and healthcare projects, and the development of human rights.”

The search for military superiority exists “in the service of a mentality of fear that affects not only the parties in conflict but the entire human race,” he said.

“International relations cannot be held captive to military force, mutual intimidation, and the parading of stockpiles of arms,” the pope added. “Weapons of mass destruction, particularly nuclear weapons, create nothing but a false sense of security.”

In his address, the Pope also questioned the wisdom behind allowing nuclear technology to be shared by more and more nations, suggesting that the more this technology becomes available, the more likely it will be used by unstable regimes or terrorist groups.

“Suffice it to note that nuclear technologies are now spreading, also through digital communications, and that the instruments of international law have not prevented new states from joining those already in possession of nuclear weapons,” he said.

“The resulting scenarios are deeply disturbing if we consider the challenges of contemporary geopolitics, like terrorism or asymmetric warfare,” he said.

The pontiff praised a recent vote at the United Nations where a majority of members expressed their belief that “nuclear weapons are not only immoral, but must also be considered an illegal means of warfare.”

Whereas “chemical weapons, biological weapons, anti-human mines and cluster bombs are all expressly prohibited by international conventions,” the pope stated, the same cannot be said of nuclear weapons.

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