Archbishop Gallagher At The International Day For The Total Elimination Of Nuclear Weapons

By H. E. Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher
Secretary for Relations with States of the Holy See

OCTOBER 2, 2020

Mr. President,

Seventy-five years ago, following years of frightful warfare, the United Nations embodied the shared hope of the world’s peoples to save succeeding generations from “the scourge of war.”[1] In the last month of that war, however, an enormous new menace, symbolized by a mushroom-shaped cloud, arose and ever since has haunted humanity.

As we gather today, we recall with reverence the victims of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and their survivors, the Hibakusha. We also remember with gratitude the statesmen, scientists, diplomats and lawyers who, through various agreements, found ways to limit nuclear weapons and for some time made progress toward nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation. In particular, we applaud the Humanitarian Consequences Initiative and the women and men who three years ago helped to negotiate the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW).

The Holy See regards the Ban Treaty (TPNW) as an important instrument to build peace and to strengthen the disarmament commitments of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). We encourage States that have not yet signed the Treaty to sign it, and urge those that have signed but not ratified it to do so, so it may enter into force.

Nuclear-armed State parties to the NPT should remember that this latter did not establish legacy rights to nuclear weapons. No State may claim an entitlement to weapons of mass destruction. “The threat of [the] use [of nuclear weapons], as well as their very possession,” Pope Francis insists, “is to be firmly condemned.”[2] A first step in a renewed push toward nuclear disarmament could be the adoption of No-First-Use policies by all the nuclear weapons States. Refraining from the threat to use nuclear weapons, in turn, will require applying greater energy and imagination to pursue the long term and strongly sought after goal of a nuclear-weapons-free-world.

The postponement of the NPT Review Conference offers an opportunity to breathe new life into this Treaty, as we marked its fiftieth anniversary, and to make good on the unrealized commitments of earlier Review Conferences. Now is the time to rebuild measures for non-proliferation, where these have been weakened, like the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), and to realize long-desired ones, like the entering into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT), the adoption of a Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty (FMCT), and the establishment of the Middle East Nuclear Weapons Free Zone. Now is the time to revitalize the crisis management, threat-reduction, and military-to-military exchange programs instituted after the Cold War. Now is also the time to re-invigorate the instruments of nuclear disarmament, beginning with a moratorium on the modernization of nuclear arsenals, which is driving a new nuclear arms race.

In 2020, the daunting challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic and record global temperatures should inspire us to approach the threat of nuclear war with humility and purpose.[3] We must pursue the global reduction and elimination of nuclear weapons as our common mission and use the resources saved to confront the dire situations of poverty, hunger, lack of healthcare and education, and the destruction of our common home. In the 20th century, technology driven by ideology was used for untold death and destruction.[4] At Hiroshima Peace Park last November, Pope Francis said that “the abyss of pain endured [there] remind us of boundaries that must never be crossed.”[5]. Now is the time for the nations of the world, in order to save future generations from a similar fate, to commit to the abolition of nuclear weapons and to make possible a new responsible promise of life for all who share our common home. 

Thank you, Mr. President.

[1] Preamble, United Nations Charter, para. 1.

[2] Pope Francis, Address to the Participants in the Symposium “Prospects for a World Free of Nuclear Weapons and for Integral Disarmament”, 10 November 2017.

[3] Pope Francis, Laudato Si’, nos. 18-19.

[4] Ibid., no. 104.

[5] Pope Francis, Speech at Hiroshima Peace Park, 24 November 2019.

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