The world’s Catholic bishops rejoice that immoral atomic bombs are finally illegal

The bishops sign a statement after the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons enters into force. Pope Francis encourages “States and all people to work decisively toward promoting conditions necessary for a world without nuclear weapons, contributing to the advancement of peace and to multilateral cooperation”. The bishops of Hiroshima and Nagasaki issued a joint statement against deterrence theory.


Vatican City (AsiaNews) – The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) entered into force yesterday, 22 January 2021. Adopted on 7 July 2017, it outlaws the use, threat, possession and stationing of atomic weapons.

To mark the event, the world’s Catholic bishops issued a statement. It reads: “The worst of all weapons of mass destruction has long been deemed immoral. Now it is also finally illegal”. It is encouraging that the “majority of UN member states actively support the new treaty by adopting, signing, and ratifying it”; what is more, public opinion polls show that most people believe that nuclear weapons must be abolished.

Last Wednesday, Pope Francis also spoke about the entry into force of the Treaty, underlining that “This is the first legally binding international instrument explicitly prohibiting these weapons, whose use has an indiscriminate impact, strikes a large amount of people in a short time and causes long-lasting damage to the environment.”

For this reason, “I strongly encourage all States and all people to work decisively toward promoting conditions necessary for a world without nuclear weapons, contributing to the advancement of peace and to multilateral cooperation which humanity greatly needs today.”

Adopted by 122 member states of the United Nations General Assembly in 2017, the treaty was ratified by 50 signatories at the end of October 2020, which allowed it to enter into force 90 days after the 50th signature.

However, the signatures of existing nuclear powers –  United States, Russia, China, France, Great Britain, India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea – are missing. Japan, the only country struck by nuclear weapons, has refused to sign the treaty arguing that its effectiveness is doubtful without the participation of nuclear powers.

in a recent interview with Vatican News, Mgr Paul Richard Gallagher, Secretary for Relations with States of the Holy See, said: “On the one hand, we are concerned that the nuclear powers often seem to be turning away from nuclear multilateralism and the negotiating table, as evidenced by a certain erosion of the nuclear weapons architecture, highlighted by the abandonment of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, the weakening of the Iranian JCPOA (Comprehensive Joint Plan of Action), the uncertainty of the future of the aforementioned START, and increasing military spending not only on maintenance but also on the modernization of nuclear arsenals.

“On the other hand, we must be motivated and proactive by remaining steadfast in our efforts to work towards nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation. The promotion and implementation of TPNW and the 10th NPT Review Conference, scheduled for August of this year, are two clear opportunities to advance a world without nuclear weapons.”

In a joint statement released yesterday, Bishop Mitsuaki Takami of Hiroshima and Bishop Mitsuru Shirahama of Nagasaki, define the Treaty as “the most effective step for the abolition of nuclear weapons,” noting however that “there is one last major obstacle that must be overcome” and that is the theory of deterrence that places countries like Japan under the so-called nuclear umbrella.

“As Catholic bishops and Japanese citizens from the bombed cities, we share Pope Francis' confidence that a world free of nuclear weapons is possible and necessary 'to protect all life'. Everyone, nations with and without nuclear weapons, must unite to participate in building a world free of nuclear weapons.”

The Japanese prelates go on to say that “Many countries have ratified the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons and we renew our commitment to pray that the countries that possess nuclear weapons also ratify it, resulting in the full implementation of the treaty.”

More is needed however. As Bishop Gallagher said, “it is necessary to intensify efforts to counter the pressures against multilateralism and overcome the dynamic of suspicion and distrust.

“The correct implementation of these tools represents, in fact, a fundamental step on the ‘path’ towards a world free of nuclear weapons. There is, then, another significant aspect that this ‘path’ requires; an aspect that is fully recognized in the TPNW: the importance of both education for peace and disarmament in all its aspects, and of raising awareness of the risks and consequences of nuclear weapons for the present and future generations.

“These two aspects cannot be underestimated: education and awareness-raising also represent two other important pieces that contribute to composing the mosaic of a world free of nuclear weapons and that require a commitment to significant initiatives aimed at promoting a culture that rejects such weapons, a culture of life and peace, a culture of care.” (FP)

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