Statements

Thursday 9 April 2015
Nuclear Weapons and the Moral Compass
Remarks by H.E. Archbishop Bernardito Auza, Permanent Representative of the Holy See to the United Nations at the Conference on “Nuclear Weapons and the Moral Compass” United Nations, New York, 9 April 2015
Remarks by H.E. Archbishop Bernardito Auza, Permanent Representative of the Holy See to the United Nations at the Conference on “Nuclear Weapons and the Moral Compass” United Nations, New York, 9 April 2015Your Excellencies, Distinguished Panelists, Friends, Ladies and Gentlemen: The Permanent Mission of the Holy See is pleased to welcome you to this conference on “Nuclear Weapons and the Moral Compass.”  Since the emergence of the nuclear age, the Holy See has not ceased to raise the moral argument against the possession and use of nuclear weapons. Because of the incalculable and indiscriminate humanitarian consequences of such weapons, their use is clearly against international humanitarian law. Thus, the Holy See has worked and continues to work for a world without nuclear weapons: Pope John XXIII, in his 1963 Encyclical Pacem in Terris, called for the abolition of nuclear weapons and for the establishment of an adequate disarmament program to achieve that end. Pope Paul VI’s plea of jamais plus la guerre, of «war never again », still reverberates in the General Assembly Hall. But his appeal to let weapons fall from our hands, “especially the terrible weapons that modern science has given [us],” in clear reference to nuclear arms, has gone unheeded.     In 1982, Pope John Paul II addressed a message to the United Nations General Assembly on its second conference devoted to Disarmament. The Pope said that in the “current conditions of the Cold War ‘deterrence,’ considered not as an end in itself but as a step toward a progressive disarmament, may still be judged morally acceptable. Nonetheless, in order to ensure peace, it is indispensable not to be satisfied with this minimum, which is always susceptible to the real danger of explosion.” The Holy Father, therefore, did not countenance deterrence as a permanent measure. As time progressed and the central promise of the NPT [Non-Proliferation Treaty] remained unfulfilled, the Holy See stepped up its efforts to argue for the abolition of nuclear weapons. In his 2006 World Day of Peace message, Pope Benedict XVI criticized the argument of nuclear arms for security as "completely fallacious" and affirmed that "peace requires that all ... strive for progressive and concerted nuclear disarmament." In his message to His Excellency Mr. Sebastian Kurz, President of the Vienna Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons in December 2014, Pope Francis wrote: “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 Popes meant their voices to echo the voice speaking in human consciences directing us toward peace, to echo the concerns and aspirations, the hopes and the fears of billions of men, women and children who constantly face the threat of nuclear weapons. Our conference this afternoon intends to advance the efforts towards the total elimination of nuclear weapons. It intends to face the problem from the moral perspective. Thus, to speak to us on the theme of “Nuclear Weapons and the Moral Compass,” we have invited eminent religious personalities from various religious faiths and Christian churches. They will argue why a moral perspective has a role to play in nuclear disarmament efforts. Dear friends, During the Vienna Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons in December 2014, the Holy See presented a Paper entitled “Nuclear Disarmament: Time for Abolition.” The paper argues that disarmament treaties are not just legal obligations; they are also moral commitments based on trust between States, rooted in the trust that citizens place in their governments. It, therefore, is neither a scientific nor a political Paper; rather, it advances the moral argument for nuclear disarmament. The paper starts from the premise that if commitments to nuclear disarmament are not made in good faith and result in breaches of trust, the proliferation of such weapons will be the logical corollary. For our own good and that of future generations, we have no reasonable and moral option other than the abolition of nuclear weapons. Nuclear weapons are a global problem and they impact on all countries and all peoples, including future generations. Moreover, the ever-growing interdependence and globalization demand that whatever response we may have against the threat of nuclear weapons can only be collective and based on reciprocal trust. Despite some progress, nuclear disarmament is currently in crisis. The institutions that are supposed to move this process forward have been blocked for years. The central promise of the NPT has remained a distant dream. In fact, while the pre-NPT nuclear power countries not only have not disarmed but are also modernizing their nuclear arsenals, some pre-NPT non-nuclear countries have acquired or are in the process of acquiring nuclear arms capabilities. What is even more terrifying is the possibility that non-state actors, like terrorist and extremist organizations, will acquire nuclear weapons.   Nuclear weapons can not create for us a stable and secure world. Peace and international stability cannot be founded on mutually assured destruction or on the threat of total destruction. The Holy See believes that peace cannot be “reduced solely to maintaining a balance of power between enemies,”(1). On the contrary, as Pope Francis affirms, “peace must be built on justice, socio-economic development, freedom, respect for human rights, the participation of all in public affairs and the building of trust between peoples," (2). The Holy See calls for a “new thinking on how to challenge complacency surrounding the belief in nuclear deterrence,” focusing attention on a number of aspects, namely:  1) the costs of the nuclear stalemate to the global common good; 2) the “illusions of security” inherent in the possession of nuclear arms; 3) the inequality at the root of the non-proliferation regime according to the NPT; and 4) the enormous toll that the current nuclear policies take on the poor and on the world’s priorities. The United Nations will soon adopt the Post-2015 Sustainable Development Agenda. The Sustainable Development Goals contained therein are daunting and require enormous means of implementation. It would be naïve and myopic if we seek to assure world peace and security through nuclear weapons rather than through the eradication of poverty, making healthcare and education accessible to all, and promoting peaceful institutions and societies through dialogue and solidarity. Would you not agree that the enormous resources allocated to the production, maintenance, security and modernization of nuclear weapons could be better invested in the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals, which could better guarantee peace and security for all? Arguing for nuclear abolition from the moral perspective, the Holy See appeals to human consciences. As Paul VI affirmed in his 1965 Address to the United Nations General Assembly, “Today, as never before, in an era marked by such human progress, there is need for an appeal to the moral conscience of man. For the danger comes, not from progress, nor from science… The real danger comes from man himself, who has at his disposal ever more powerful instruments, which can be used as well for destruction as for the loftiest conquests.” Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, Friends, No one could ever say that a world without nuclear weapons is easily achievable. It is not; it is extremely arduous; it is even a utopia for some. But there is no alternative than to work towards its achievement. As President John F. Kennedy once said, “The pursuit of peace is not as dramatic as the pursuit of war -- and frequently the words of the pursuers fall on deaf ears. But we have no more urgent task.”(3) I thank you all for your presence and your participation in the debate.---------------------1)  Gaudium et Spes n.78.2)  Pope Francis Letter to His Excellency Mr. Sebastian Kurz, President of the Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons, 7 December 2014.3)  President John F. Kennedy, Commencement Address at American University, 10 June 1963.