Citing Pope Francis' recent words on avoiding war and promoting peaceful coexistence between nations, the Holy See addressed the United Nations general assembly last Friday, urging them to ban nuclear weapons around the world and take more serious steps to promote peace programs. "As the twenty-first century unfolds, it is becoming ever clearer that war does not and cannot resolve conflict," stated Archbishop Bernardito Auza, the Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, Oct. 16. "Preventive means, mediation, peacekeeping, and peace building are the most useful tools in our hands. We must employ them much more fully than we presently do," he continued. Pope Francis made a similar appeal to the UN Sept. 25 during his trip to the United States, saying it was crucial for the UN to "work tirelessly to avoid war between nations and between peoples." Archbishop Auza echoed the Pope's comments, noting that civilian deaths are growing in numbers due to weapons of war. Cluster munitions and chemical weapons - although forbidden - have increased, giving cause for concern in modern-day combat around the globe. "The conflicts scarring landscapes and moving peoples from homes to perilous deserts and seas - indeed, to cemeteries - testify to the lack of political will to stamp out the gun culture that still stands as an obstacle to the peaceful development of peoples," Archbishop Auza stated, saying that governments should take more serious steps to reduce the production of and dependence on arms. The archbishop also challenged the UN to do more to promote preventive measures, saying the investment in weaponry and military far outweigh the United Nations' efforts towards peace and stability. "The resources spent on militarization and weapons development continue to rise, while the funding for all the United Nations programs for peace and development pales in comparison," he asserted. In addition to encouraging the growth of peace programs, the archbishop sadly noted the "parlous state of nuclear weapons negotiations," saying that "nuclear deterrence is an obstacle to real and lasting peace." When the UN met to discuss the nonproliferation of nuclear weapons at the NPT Ninth Review Conference last spring, a final document on the matter was never produced, delaying any action against the use of nuclear weaponry, according to Archbishop Auza. The archbishop went on to quote Pope Francis, who also expressed concern over the use of nuclear weapons during his address to the General Assembly, when he underscored the "urgent need to work for a world free of nuclear weapons" with "the goal of a complete prohibition of these weapons." Instead of giving way to destructive weapons, Archbishop Auza encouraged trust between nations, saying that confidence in peaceful negotiations — rather than combat — should take precedence. "True and lasting peace among nations cannot consist in possession of a matching supply of equally destructive armaments but only in mutual trust," he stated. "If we give negotiations, political goodwill and full verification a chance to work, the world will not be doomed to the proliferation of nuclear weapons," the archbishop stated. Archbishop Auza also echoed the words of Pope Francis who recently encouraged dialogue across the nations to ensure the total and complete prohibition of nuclear weapons. "The recent agreement reached on the nuclear question in a sensitive region of Asia and the Middle East is proof of the potential of political good will and of law, exercised with sincerity, patience and constancy," the archbishop reiterated, quoting the Holy Father. Archbishop Auza then voiced support of any efforts and resources used to expose the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons and war, believing that the general public should be made aware of nuclear aftermath. "Let us listen to the overwhelming call of the international community for urgent progress towards the elimination of nuclear weapons," Archbishop Auza stated, "because the only guarantee that nuclear weapons are never used is their complete elimination."
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