Message of the Holy Father on the occasion of the Vienna Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons (7 December 2014)
To His Excellency Mr Sebastian Kurz
Federal Minister for Europe, Integration and Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Austria
President of the Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons
I am pleased to greet you, Mr President, and all the representatives from various Nations and International Organizations, as well as civil society, who are participating in the Vienna Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons.
Nuclear weapons are a global problem, affecting all nations, and impacting future generations and the planet that is our home. A global ethic is needed if we are to reduce the nuclear threat and work towards nuclear disarmament. Now, more than ever, technological, social and political interdependence urgently calls for an ethic of solidarity (cf. John Paul II, Sollicitudo Rei Socialis , 38), which encourages peoples to work together for a more secure world, and a future that is increasingly rooted in moral values and responsibility on a global scale.
The humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons are predictable and planetary. While the focus is often placed on nuclear weapons' potential for mass-killing, more attention must be given to the “unnecessary suffering” brought on by their use. Military codes and international law, among others, have long banned peoples from inflicting unnecessary suffering. If such suffering is banned in the waging of conventional war, then it should all the more be banned in nuclear conflict. There are those among us who are victims of these weapons; they warn us not to commit the same irreparable mistakes which have devastated populations and creation. I extend warm greetings to the Hibakusha, as well as other victims of nuclear weapons testing who are present at this meeting. I encourage them all to be prophetic voices, calling the human family to a deeper appreciation of beauty, love, cooperation and fraternity, while reminding the world of the risks of nuclear weapons which have the potential to destroy us and civilization.
Nuclear deterrence and the threat of mutually assured destruction cannot be the basis for an ethics of fraternity and peaceful coexistence among peoples and states. The youth of today and tomorrow deserve far more. They deserve a peaceful world order based on the unity of the human family, grounded on respect, cooperation, solidarity and compassion. Now is the time to counter the logic of fear with the ethic of responsibility, and so foster a climate of trust and sincere dialogue.
Spending on nuclear weapons squanders the wealth of nations. To prioritize such spending is a mistake and a misallocation of resources which would be far better invested in the areas of integral human development, education, health and the fight against extreme poverty. When these resources are squandered, the poor and the weak living on the margins of society pay the price.
The desire for peace, security and stability is one of the deepest longings of the human heart. It is rooted in the Creator who makes all people members of the one human family. This desire can never be satisfied by military means alone, much less the possession of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction. Peace cannot “be reduced solely to maintaining a balance of power between enemies; nor is it brought about by dictatorship” ( Gaudium et Spes, 78). Peace must be built on justice, socio-economic development, freedom, respect for fundamental human rights, the participation of all in public affairs and the building of trust between peoples. Pope Paul VI stated this succinctly in his Encyclical Populorum Progressio : “Development is the new name for peace” (76). It is incumbent on us to adopt concrete actions which promote peace and security, while remaining always aware of the limitation of short-sighted approaches to problems of national and international security. We must be profoundly committed to strengthening mutual trust, for only through such trust can true and lasting peace among nations be established (cf. John XXIII, Pacem in Terris , 113).
In the context of this Conference, I wish to encourage sincere and open dialogue between parties internal to each nuclear state, between various nuclear states, and between nuclear states and non-nuclear states. This dialogue must be inclusive, involving international organizations, religious communities and civil society, and oriented towards the common good and not the protection of vested interests. “A world without nuclear weapons” is a goal shared by all nations and echoed by world leaders, as well as the aspiration of millions of men and women. The future and the survival of the human family hinges on moving beyond this ideal and ensuring that it becomes a reality.
I am convinced that the desire for peace and fraternity planted deep in the human heart will bear fruit in concrete ways to ensure that nuclear weapons are banned once and for all, to the benefit of our common home. The security of our own future depends on guaranteeing the peaceful security of others, for if peace, security and stability are not established globally, they will not be enjoyed at all. Individually and collectively, we are responsible for the present and future well-being of our brothers and sisters. It is my great hope that this responsibility will inform our efforts in favour of nuclear disarmament, for a world without nuclear weapons is truly possible.
From the Vatican, 7th December 2014
2013-09-28 L’Osservatore Romano
Published below is the intervention given on 26 September in New York by the Archbishop Secretary for Relations with States, during the High-Level Meeting of the United Nations General Assembly on Nuclear Disarmament
The General Assembly resolution calling for today’s High-Level meeting on Nuclear Disarmament expressed the common conviction that the complete elimination of nuclear weapons is essential to remove the danger of nuclear war, a goal that must have our highest priority. The Holy See, which has long called for the banishment of these weapons of mass destruction, joins in this concerted effort to give vigorous expression to the cry of humanity to be freed from the specter of nuclear warfare.
Under the terms of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, states are enjoined to make “good faith” efforts to negotiate the elimination of nuclear weapons. Can we say there is “good faith” when modernization programs of the nuclear weapons states continue despite their affirmations of eventual nuclear disarmament? Concern over the proliferation of nuclear weapons into other countries ring hollow as long as the nuclear weapons states hold on to their nuclear weapons. If today’s special meeting is to have any historic significance, it must result in a meaningful commitment by the nuclear weapons states to divest themselves of their nuclear weapons.
Five years ago, the Secretary-General offered a Five-Point Plan for Nuclear Disarmament. It is past time for this plan to be given the serious attention it deserves. The centre-piece is the negotiation of a Nuclear Weapons Convention or a framework of instruments leading directly to a global ban on nuclear weapons. This is a clear-cut goal, fully understandable and supportable by all those who truly want the world to move beyond the dark doctrines of mutual assured destruction.
It is now imperative for us to address in a systematic and coherent manner the legal, political and technical requisites for a world free from nuclear arms. For this reason, we should begin as soon as possible preparatory work on the Convention or a framework agreement for a phased and verifiable elimination of nuclear arms.
The chief obstacle to starting this work is continued adherence to the doctrine of nuclear deterrence. With the end of the Cold War, the time for the acceptance of this doctrine is long passed. The Holy See does not countenance the continuation of nuclear deterrence, since it is evident it is driving the development of ever newer nuclear arms, thus preventing genuine nuclear disarmament.
For many years, the world has been told that a number of steps will lead eventually to nuclear disarmament. Such argumentation is belied by the extraordinary nature of today’s meeting, which surely would not have been called if the steps were working. They are not. It is the military doctrine of nuclear deterrence, politically supported by the nuclear weapons states, that must be addressed in order to break the chain of dependence on deterrence. Starting work on a global approach to providing security without relying on nuclear deterrence is urgent.
We cannot justify the continuation of a permanent nuclear deterrence policy, given the loss of human, financial and material resources in time of scarcity of funds for health, education and social services around the world and in the face of current threats to human security, such as poverty, climate change, terrorism and transnational crimes. All this should make us consider the ethical dimension and the moral legitimacy of the production, processing, development, accumulation, use and threat of use of nuclear arms. We must emphasize anew that military doctrines based on nuclear arms, as instruments of security and defence of an élite group, in a show of power and supremacy, retard and jeopardize the process of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation.
It is time to counter the logic of fear with the ethic of responsibility, fostering a climate of trust and sincere dialogue, capable of promoting a culture of peace, founded on the primacy of law and the common good, through a coherent and responsible cooperation between all members of the international community.
Thank you, Mr. President.
Intervention of H.E. Archbishop Francis Chullikatt, Apostolic Nuncio, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the UN (30 April 2014, UN Headquarters, New York)
My delegation congratulates you on your election to chair this final preparatory meeting of the 2015 NPT Review Conference. I assure you of our full cooperation. Each review cycle of the Non-Proliferation Treaty becomes increasingly important because the longer the delay in fulfilling the treaty’s aims, the greater the risk that the fragile state of international security will be breached by a cataclysmic tragedy involving the use of nuclear weapons.
It is now 44 years since the NPT entered into force and a quarter of a century since the end of the Cold War. The continued existence of some 17,000 nuclear weapons, along with modernization programs that appear to assume that nuclear weapons will continue to be part of military arsenals well into the second half of the 21st century, undermine the NPT. Without robust progress toward the elimination of nuclear weapons, the day may not be far off when the treaty is regarded as a relic of an earlier age. A vibrant NPT is essential to attaining the goal of a nuclear-weapons-free world. If one of the treaty’s central obligations – negotiations toward the elimination of nuclear weapons – continues to be implemented so timidly and at such an unacceptably slow pace, confidence in the viability of the non-proliferation regime could gradually weaken and the risk of further proliferation would increase.
The principal nuclear-weapon states take what would seem to be an unbalanced approach to the treaty: while demonstrating a strong interest in curtailing proliferation, their commitment to divesting themselves of these instruments of hegemonic power lacks the same urgency. The nuclear-weapons states argue that they need those weapons for their security, while giving short shrift to the views of experts in diverse fields of human activity, such as science, the military, law, and morality, that nuclear weapons are the epitome of insecurity.
The military doctrine of nuclear deterrence is regarded by a great number of countries as a prime obstacle to meaningful progress on nuclear disarmament. It exists as an elemental part of security force structures that hinder the development of our globalized and interdependent world. Moreover, it is used to justify the modernization of existing stockpiles of nuclear weapons, thus obstructing genuine nuclear disarmament. The many states now engaged in a series of diplomatic meetings to discuss the “catastrophic humanitarian consequences” of the use of nuclear weapons recognize the danger of the frustratingly slow progress toward a nuclear-weapons-free world. These meetings, begun in Oslo last year, and continued this year in Nayrit, with a third meeting planned for Vienna, are spelling out in excruciating detail the horrors that would befall humanity in the event of the accidental or deliberate use of nuclear weapons. The logical course of action is clear: urgent and expedited progress leading to a global legal ban on nuclear weapons to accompany the current global bans on other weapons of mass destruction, such as chemical and biological weapons.
However, diplomatic meetings by themselves cannot start a process to produce a ban. We need a genuine political process that can help achieve this end. The unprecedented High-Level Meeting on Nuclear Disarmament, convened at the UN in September 2013, attempted to generate that political momentum. Accordingly, my Delegation hopes that the major states will take more substantial and resolute action to eliminate the scourge of these morally unacceptable nuclear weapons that could indiscriminately annihilate non-combatants and combatants alike in times of war as well as in times of peace. In light of the above, clearly it would be better to have the nuclear-weapon states working with the non-nuclear states to prepare a common path to develop a legally binding instrument banning the possession of nuclear weapons. The Oslo-Nayrit-Vienna process demonstrates that pressure is mounting to undertake the preparatory work for a ban. Governments that recognize the urgency for such action may be tempted to try to achieve it without the participation of the major nuclear states, and outside of the framework of existing mechanisms and institutions such as bilateral strategic weapons negotiations and the Conference on Disarmament, where the efforts of the nuclear weapon states to date have been so modest.
In my Delegation’s view, Governments should not have to make such a choice. A good faith commitment to the NPT should assure and even enhance the cooperation of all its parties, thereby moving the world closer to the elimination of nuclear weapons in a unified manner. The major states that truly value the NPT should ensure that the negotiating process actually produces comprehensive nuclear disarmament at a greatly accelerated pace. For many years, the Holy See has called for the abolition of nuclear weapons in order that the world may be freed from the potential specter of mass destruction. Today, we renew that moral call to inspire and animate constructive work to preserve our planet and all of humanity. It should not be the case that the nuclear-weapons states continue to spend more than $100 billion per year to maintain their nuclear weapons, while this precious financial resource is so desperately needed for economic and social development, including the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals, to meet the needs of the world’s poorest. Indeed, the question of peace and security as a prerequisite for sustainable development becomes moot in the face of the threats posed to humankind by existing nuclear arsenal.
At the 2010 Review Conference of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, my Delegation stated that the world has arrived at an opportune moment to begin addressing in a systematic way the legal, political and technical requisites for a nuclear-weapons-free world. It is therefore our hope that preparatory work will begin as soon as possible on a comprehensive agreement leading to the elimination of nuclear weapons. This effort need in no way obstruct the steps and building blocks presently envisioned to support the objective of a nuclear-weapons-free world, steps such as further reductions in arsenals of weapons, entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, and the Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty.
In this regard, it is vital that the conference on the establishment of a zone in the Middle East free of nuclear weapons and all other weapons of mass destruction, which all parties at the 2010 Review Conference agreed to hold, finally be convened. Here, not only is the credibility of the NPT at risk, but the peace process and the security of the region do require the assurance of all parties that the Middle East will not become the site of a nuclear arms race.
Despite setbacks, nuclear disarmament is by no means a lost cause. There is a gradual awakening of conscience taking place in the world, as the Oslo-Nayrit-Vienna process illustrates. Driven forward by science, technology, communications, transport and industry, and a new awareness of the unity and interdependence of the human family, the pace of humanity’s global integration is gathering speed. Nuclear weapons -- the antithesis of humankind’s yearning for peace -- should have no place in a world community determined to achieve mutual security on a global scale.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.