POPE Francis warned the nuclear powers yesterday that their arsenals give only a “false sense of security” against the threat of Armageddon.
The pontiff was addressing international delegates at the opening of a two-day Vatican summit on nuclear disarmament.
Among the guests were peace campaigners, UN and Nato officials and diplomats from the United States and Russia, who possess the most nukes.
The Pope said current tensions between the nuclear powers was making a shift away from the cold war doctrine of deterrence by mutually assured destruction “increasingly remote.”
But he argued that relying on nuclear arsenals to maintain a balance of power “creates nothing but a false sense of security.”
Any use of them, even accidental, would be “catastrophic” for humanity and the environment, he pointed out.
“International relations cannot be held captive to military force, mutual intimidation and the parading of stockpiles of arms,” Francis stressed.
Peace and security among nations must instead be “inspired by an ethics of solidarity,” he said, adding: “Progress that is both effective and inclusive can achieve the utopia of a world free of deadly instruments of aggression.”
The Pope also praised the legally binding Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons passed at the UN this year — thanks partly to efforts by the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (Ican) which earned it year’s Nobel Peace Prize.
Ican executive director Beatrice Fihn, attending the conference, said the treaty would even affect the nuclear powers who refused to sign it.
“If international law says it’s prohibited, it’s going to make it a lot harder for them to justify their decisions to modernise and invest in new types of weapons,” she said.
Francois Bugnion of the International Committee of the Red Cross highlighted the devastating effects of nuclear weapons.
“As the [Red Cross] learned in Hiroshima, there are no effective means of assisting survivors while protecting those delivering assistance,” he said. “The majority of victims will be denied the medical assistance they need.”
China and North Korea were also invited but sent no delegates. Neither has official diplomatic relations with the Vatican.