Archbishop Discusses Pope Francis’ Vision for Nuclear Disarmament

Archbishop Discusses Pope Francis’ Vision for Nuclear Disarmament


Archbishop Silvano Tomasi visited Georgetown to discuss the Catholic Church’s position on nuclear disarmament on Jan. 30. 

Tomasi, who formerly held the position of the Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations in Geneva, has worked closely with Pope Francis to reject the doctrine of nuclear deterrence and advocate for complete nuclear disarmament.

Tomasi outlined the Church’s long standing opposition to the possession of nuclear weapons, beginning with Pope John XXIII’s 1963 call for a “suitable disarmament program” in the encyclical Pacem in terris. Ensuing popes have maintained this position, but Pope Francis has been the first to explicitly reject nuclear deterrence, which is the doctrine that the possession of nuclear weapons protects nations from the threat of violent attacks.

He also noted that nuclear powers such as the United States and Russia have failed to accede to or ratify treaties limiting the possession of nuclear arms, such as the 2017 Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. Many other nuclear treaties have been withdrawn including the 1988 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. Tomasi also argued that the development of new conventional arms, such as space and hypersonic weapons, increases the risk of escalation to nuclear war.

Additionally, the archbishop stressed humanitarian and environmental concerns related to the deployment of nuclear weapons. “Nuclear weapons tests have had severe impacts on public health and the environment, also affecting cultural heritage, food security, water security, indigenous people, and local communities, and creating long-term problems such as land confiscation and population displacement,” he said.

To resolve the concerns of nuclear proliferation, the Holy See supports dialogue between nuclear states with the hopes of creating a global nuclear disarmament regime. “In the long term, the goal must be to establish a durable, verifiable commitment among nuclear-armed states to Article VI of the Nonproliferation Treaty,” Tosami said.  

Tomasi also proposed the concept of integral disarmament, a vision of nuclear disarmament that considers disarmament not only an interstate issue, but an interpersonal one.

“Integral disarmament takes us beyond the mentality of finding security only in armament and the preparation for war and promotes a civilization of love and political friendship, for the development of the whole person and of all people,” he said.

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