The Vatican is preparing for a conference on nuclear disarmament this week in the wake of an international effort to ban nuclear weapons. Hosted by the Dicastery for the Promotion of Integral Human Development, the Nov. 10-11 conference will explore solutions and prospects for a world free of nuclear weapons and integral disarmament, in cohesion with Pope Francis' emphasis on promoting peace.
In a Nov. 7 Vatican communique Cardinal Peter Turkson, prefect of the dicastery, said the event “responds to the priorities of Pope Francis to take action for world peace and to use the resources of creation for a sustainable development and to improve the quality of life for all, individuals and countries, without discrimination.”
At the International Atomic Energy Agency conference in Vienna in September, department secretary Msgr. Bruno Marie Duffé also emphasized the importance of the “moral responsibility of the States” and the challenge of a “common strategy of dialogue” invoked by Pope Francis.
The international symposium represents “the first global gathering on Atomic Disarmament” after the approval of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons was passed in New York July 7. Until the treaty, nuclear weapons were the only weapons of mass destruction not explicitly banned by any international document. The treaty passed with 122 votes in favor and one abstention, Singapore. However, 69 countries – all the nuclear weapon states and NATO members except the Netherlands – did not take part in the vote.
One of the conference’s speakers Saturday will be Masako Wada, one of the last survivors of the Hiroshima nuclear attack and an assistant secretary general of Nihon Hidankyo, a confederation of nuclear weapons and experiments victims. Other attendees include 11 Nobel Peace Laureates, representatives from the United Nations and NATO, diplomats from Russia, the United States, South Korea, and Iran, experts on armaments and weapons and leaders from foundations engaged in the topic. There will also be representatives of bishops' conferences and other Christian organizations and a delegation of professors and students from US and Russian universities.
Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin, as well as the leadership of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, will deliver speeches on behalf of the Holy See; Pope Francis will meet with participants and give an address Nov. 10.
The conference builds on a conference held in New York in March to negotiate the Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty. Pope Francis sent a message to that conference saying the doctrine of nuclear deterrence has become ineffective against 21st century threats like terrorism, asymmetrical conflicts, environmental problems, and poverty. These threats, the Pope stressed, are “even greater when we consider the catastrophic humanitarian and environmental consequences that would follow from any use of nuclear weapons, with devastating, indiscriminate and uncontainable effects, over time and space.”