Bishops call for ‘universal nuclear disarmament’ on anniversary of treaty — By: Catholic News Agency

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CNA Staff, Jan 23, 2024 / 11:17 am (CNA).

An international group of bishops is calling for “universal, verifiable nuclear disarmament” on the third anniversary of a key global nuclear disarmament treaty. 

The prelates of Santa Fe, New Mexico, and Seattle as well as those of the Japanese Archdiocese of Nagasaki and the Diocese of Hiroshima issued the letter on Monday on the third anniversary of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons going into effect.

That treaty, adopted by the United Nations (U.N.) in 2017 and entered into force in January 2021, includes “a comprehensive set of prohibitions on participating in any nuclear weapon activities,” including directives “not to develop, test, produce, acquire, possess, stockpile, use, or threaten to use nuclear weapons.”

Santa Fe Archbishop John Wester, Seattle Archbishop Paul Etienne, Nagasaki Archbishop Peter Michiaki Nakamura, Hiroshima Bishop Alexis Mitsuru Shirahama, and Nagasaki Archbishop Emeritus Joseph Mitsuaki Takami noted that the treaty “has been signed by 93 countries and ratified by 70,” although “no nuclear weapons powers or their allies” have signed onto it. 

“The nuclear-armed states have a moral obligation to hear the voices of the majority of the world and to listen to those who are threatened by annihilation at the decision of any one of the nine leaders of the nuclear weapons states,” the prelates wrote. 

Those nine states are the United States, Russia, China, France, India, North Korea, Pakistan, Israel, and the United Kingdom.

“The international legal force of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons is limited to those states that have formally ratified the treaty,” the prelates wrote. “But its moral power does not recognize boundaries between nations nor lines on a map — the moral power of this treaty is global and universal.” 

“It is another historic step on the journey toward hope, toward the light, toward a world free of nuclear weapons,” they said.

The bishops in their letter noted that their respective dioceses have been key witnesses to nuclear history: the “birthplace of nuclear weapons” in Santa Fe, the “most deployed nuclear weapons in the United States” in Seattle, and those of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, “the only two cities that to date have suffered horrendous atomic attacks.”

“It is the duty of our dioceses to support this treaty while working toward universal, verifiable nuclear disarmament,” the bishops said. “We lend our voices in strong support of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.”

The nuclear prohibition treaty has received broad support from Catholic leaders since its proposal and implementation.

Bishops in the U.K. as well as U.N. Permanent Observer Archbishop Gabriele Caccia have hailed the treaty and called for reductions in nuclear armaments throughout the world. 

In January 2021, meanwhile, Bishop Shirahama and then-Archbishop Takami welcomed the U.N. treaty while expressing disappointment that Japan was not a signatory to it. 

“The Japanese government argues that ‘it is necessary to maintain the deterrence of the United States with nuclear weapons under the Japan-U.S. alliance,’” they wrote at the time. 

“But as the only country to ever be attacked with atomic weapons, Japan should take the lead in signing and ratifying and play a role in promoting dialogue toward nuclear disarmament between nuclear-weapon states and nonnuclear-weapon states,” they argued. 

Vatican Secretary for Relations with States Archbishop Paul Gallagher also argued in 2021 against “the exorbitant spending by a few states in the production and deployment of nuclear arsenals” and called for the global adoption of the treaty. 

“The Holy See is grateful to those states that have signed and ratified the treaty, and it encourages reluctant states to join this important agreement,” Gallagher said that year.

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