Top Vatican officials call for world free of nuclear weapons

Top Vatican officials call for world free of nuclear weapons

In this July 4, 2017, file photo distributed by the North Korean government, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, second from right, inspects the preparation of the launch of a Hwasong-14 intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) in North Korea's northwest. (Credit: Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP.)

Opening a Vatican-sponsored webinar, Cardinal Peter Turkson, head of the Dicastery for the Promotion of Integral Human Development, said that the Holy See aims to shine a light on the “catastrophic impact” of nuclear deterrence, mutually assured destruction and the arms race have in society, while renewing the pope’s call for a world free of nuclear weapons.

ROSARIO, Argentina — Opening a Vatican-sponsored webinar, Cardinal Peter Turkson, head of the Dicastery for the Promotion of Integral Human Development, said that the Holy See aims to shine a light on the “catastrophic impact” of nuclear deterrence, mutually assured destruction and the arms race have in society, while renewing the pope’s call for a world free of nuclear weapons.

“On international relations and within the new multipolar order, a climate of fear and mistrust and opposition prevails,” the cardinal said.

“The danger is also posed by non-state actors and terrorist groups that are becoming more and more violent, especially if we consider the danger posed by nuclear and biochemical weapons that sometimes fall into their hands.”

His words came during the presentation of A World Free from Nuclear Weapons, published in August. The volume contains the papers from a major symposium held by the Vatican in 2017 to relaunch efforts towards creating a world free of nuclear weapons.

The webinar was sponsored by the Vatican’s Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development in partnership with the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs at Georgetown University; Georgetown University Press; Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies, Keough School of Global Affairs at the University of Notre Dame; and the Catholic Peacebuilding Network.

Two of the deepest longings of the human heart, Turkson said, are peace and stability, and the possession of nuclear arms and other weapons of mass destruction are not the answer to these desires.

“Unfortunately, our world is marked by a pervasive dichotomy that tries to defend and ensure stability and peace through force and by maintaining a mentality of fear and mistrust,” he said. “This generates a poisonous relationship between people and obstructs any form of dialogue.”

“But to speak out against the arms race will never be enough,” the cardinal added. “The arms race uses precious resources that would be better used to benefit the integral development of people and in protecting the natural environment.”

Closing his remarks, Turkson quoted U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower’s famous “Cross of Iron speech,” addressed shortly after the death of Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin, in which he likened arms spending to stealing from the people.

“Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and not clothed,” says the section of that speech quoted by the Vatican official. “This world in arms is not spending money alone: it’s spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists and the hopes of its children.”

Also speaking in the webinar was British-born Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, the Secretary for Relations with States of the Holy See’s Secretariat of State.

Gallagher argued that there’s a twofold perspective when it comes to nuclear disarmament issues: On one side, there’s concern over the fact that nuclear powers seem to be turning away from multilateralism, which is evidenced by the “erosion of the nuclear arms architecture,” including the growing expenditure for the modernization of nuclear arsenals. On the other side, he argued, “we must stay motivated to work towards nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation.”

Promoting “a concrete culture of peace based on the dignity of the human person, and on the primacy of the law, offering responsible, honest, and consistent cooperation with all members of the family of nations,” Gallagher said, requires “careful mediation, to foster political dialogue,” as well as going “beyond the theory of fear and the enemy.”

Nuclear deterrence, he said, represents a false sense of security and stability, and it is necessary to anchor the question of security to that of development, not fear.

“International peace and security cannot be rooted in mutual destruction or total annihilation, or maintaining a balance of power,” he said. “Peace and security must be built on justice, integral human development, respect for fundamental human rights, the protection of creation, the building of trust among peoples, the promotion of education and health structures, dialogue and solidarity.”

The international community, he said, is called to adopt forward-looking strategies that promote peace and security while avoiding national “shortsighted approaches” to a problem that poses an international threat.

“Achieving a world without nuclear weapons fits within this forward-looking strategy, based on the awareness that everything is connected from a perspective of integral ecology,” Gallagher argued. “The strategy can only be built through a dialogue solidity rooted in the common good and not the protection of veiled or particular interests.”

Follow Inés San Martín on Twitter: @inesanma

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