75 years after Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the Vatican is providing moral guidance on nuclear weapons

Ahead of the 75th anniversary year of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Pope Francis visited both cities. At a solemn event at the Hiroshima Peace Park in November 2019, Francis declared the use of atomic energy for war to be “a crime not only against the dignity of human beings but against any possible future for our common home.” “How,” he asked, “can we speak of peace even as we build terrifying new weapons of war?”

His comments came nearly 40 years after John Paul II became the first pope to visit the site of the atomic bomb attacks, which pulverized the two cities on Aug. 6 and 9, 1945 and killed in excess of 200,000 in the process.

Deterrence to abolition

During his visit, Francis reiterated what he previously told assembled Nobel Peace Prize laureates, diplomats and civil society representatives at a Vatican symposium in 2017, that nuclear weapons, along with chemical weapons and landmines, were impermissible. “The threat of their use, as well as their very possession, is to be firmly condemned,” he said.

We were at that 2017 symposium – Fr. Christiansen was a participant – and we later co-edited a book of testimonies from that landmark event, titled “A World Free from Nuclear Weapons: The Vatican Conference on Disarmament.”

As scholars who study how the Vatican’s position on nuclear arms has evolved, we see an ongoing role for the Catholic Church in providing moral guidance on the issue. A year after the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, during which the U.S. and the Soviet Union came perilously close to nuclear conflict, Pope John XXIII published the encyclical “Pacem in terris” – translated as Peace on Earth – in which he argued for balanced reduction of nuclear weapons leading ultimately to abolition.

In 1965, bishops at Vatican II, while contemplating nuclear war, urged in the pastoral constitution document “Gaudium et spes” – translated as Joy and Hope – that, “Whatever may be the case with deterrence…the arms race…[will not] preserve a sure and authentic peace.”

Pope John Paul II conditionally accepted deterrence in a 1982 address to the U.N. General Assembly. He wanted abolition and disarmament, but was constrained by the politics and technology of the day. The Cold War was still raging, and the Vatican accepted, albeit reluctantly, nuclear deterrence – the concept of keeping weapons to stop others from using them – rather than outright abolition at that time. Some 30 years later, in a changed global reality, the Vatican foreign minister told the U.N. that deterrence was the chief obstacle to disarmament, setting up the position of the Vatican today.

In 2017, the Holy See became one of the first signers of the U.N. Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. Article 1 prohibits signers to “develop, test, produce, manufacture, otherwise acquire, possess or stockpile nuclear weapons…” This was the backdrop for Pope Francis’ historic condemnation of deterrence and call for disarmament later that fall.

Continue reading article: https://theconversation.com/75-years-after-hiroshima-and-nagasaki-the-vatican-is-providing-moral-guidance-on-nuclear-weapons-140615#:~:text=But%2075%20years%20on%20from,time%20has%20long%20since%20come.

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