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Vatican officials call for 'solidarity' in nuclear disarmament after coronavirus pandemic

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The current pandemic has underscored the need for global solidarity to achieve nuclear disarmament, a senior Vatican diplomat said on Wednesday.

“COVID-19 proves the urgent need for a globalization of solidarity, and for greater investment in integral security and new models of global cooperation,” Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, head of the Holy See Secretariat of State’s section for diplomatic affairs, said on Wednesday at a book launch focused on global disarmament.

The coronavirus pandemic, the archbishop said, has offered the world a lesson in the need to “redefine our concept of security.”

Security cannot be based on a concept of mutually-assured destruction, he said, but rather must be based on “justice, integral human development, respect for fundamental human rights, the protection of creation, the building of trust among peoples, the promotion of educational and health structures, dialogue, and solidarity.”

“It is necessary to go beyond nuclear deterrence,” he said, encouraging nations to focus instead on forward-looking strategies such as the promotion of peace and security, and to “avoid short-sighted approaches.”

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Gallagher spoke at an online book event on Wednesday, promoting the booklet “A World Free from Nuclear Weapons - The Vatican Conference on Disarmament.” The booklet draws from the Vatican’s 2017 conference on disarmament.

Wednesday’s speakers included Archbishop Gallagher and Cardinal Peter Turkson, prefect of the Vatican’s Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development.

“To speak out against the arms race will never be enough,” Cardinal Turkson said, pointing to the use of national resources for weapons that could instead have been used for “integral human development” and care for the environment.

“We just want to ponder the catastrophic impact of all of this on our human society and renew the call of the Holy Father for a world free of nuclear weapons,” Turkson said.

In October, Vatican Archbishop Gabriele Caccia told the UN that the theory of nuclear deterrence is immoral.

“If it is immoral to threaten to use nuclear weapons for purposes of deterrence, it is even worse to intend to use them as just another instrument of war, as some nuclear doctrines propose,” he said.

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Pope St. John XXIII’s 1963 encyclical Pacem in terris hoped to move the world away from the “precipice” of nuclear holocaust, Cardinal Turkson said, and to discourage investment in nuclear weapons—something that sadly has not happened with the weakening of non-proliferation treaties, he said.

Today, “conventional weapons progressively increase their destructive character,” Turkson said.

Meanwhile, a “climate of fear, mistrust, and opposition prevails” in international relations, he said. Turkson noted a “constant use of aggressive rhetoric” and the continued development of military doctrines, as well as the threat posed by non-state terror groups that obtain and use chemical and biological weapons.

Turkson repeated the Church’s call “for a nuclear free world” and its “commitment to proclaim the Gospel of Life, proclaimed by Christ.”

The Vatican sponsored the event, in partnership with Georgetown University’s Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs, the University of Notre Dame’s Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies, Georgetown University Press, and the Catholic Peacebuilding Network.

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