When the United Nations met on Monday to discuss the peaceful uses of outer space, the Holy See chimed in by voicing its hopes for a more inclusive attitude in space exploration that would incorporate the good of all peoples, despite economic or social inequalities. “It is…of utmost importance that the opening of outer space for scientific and peaceful research be for the benefit of us all,” stated Archbishop Bernardito Auza, the Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations. “The Earth, the common home of the whole human family, is entrusted to us to be, as the Bible says, 'cultivated' and made 'fruitful,' with the responsibility to take care of it,” Archbishop Auza continued, saying that “the harmony of celestial bodies and their relationship with the Earth condition the rhythm of our life and even our daily activities.” Pointing to Pope Francis' latest encyclical Laudato Si, Archbishop Auza called the Earth “a gift for the enjoyment of the whole of humanity.” He said the celestial activities in the universe affect everyone's daily life, and should therefore be open to everyone's benefit. Additionally, the archbishop called for an International Code of Conduct for Outer Space in order to help ensure fairness and safety in the use of outer space. The Vatican’s presence at the U.N. is under the delegation of the Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the United Nations. This relationship allows the Holy See to comment and make statements at U.N. assemblies, although it may not vote. On Oct.19, a U.N. General Assembly committee met to discuss “cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space,” where they deliberated over the various issues presented by space exploration and satellites. “Satellites render useful services both in our daily activities and in the long-term protection and care of our planet,” stated Archbishop Auza, saying that they are also “fundamental to timely responses to humanitarian crises and effective disaster management.” In addition to giving weather updates, satellites can also save lives by warning of impending storms, gather information to improve life on earth, and give indications of climatic changes. According to Archbishop Auza, the global usefulness of these technologies must be made accessible to all of humanity and not just the elite nations. The archbishop pointed to various obstacles surrounding universal access to outer space resources, such as the increasing capital costs of space exploration and the use of property rights for major discoveries or inventions. The Holy See also highlighted other concerns with outer space technology, saying that its benefits are in danger of exploitation, potentially causing chaos and disaster rather than working for the common good. “My delegation is concerned that outer space technology, designed to improve our lives and care for the planet, could be manipulated or attacked to cause chaos or even catastrophic disasters,” Archbishop Auza noted. “Any hostile action against satellite systems could severely affect emergency rescue services,” he continued. The archbishop suggested that all outer space activity should be checked with a universal code of conduct, so that the good that comes from satellite navigation and intergalactic exploration is not tainted. “States must work together to ensure that these benefits do not become yet another cause of increasing economic and social inequalities. They need to become a shared resource for the common good and contribute to sustainable development of the entire global community.” “My delegation hopes that the development of an International Code of Conduct for Outer Space Activities will ensure a fairer and safer use of outer space,” said Archbishop Auza, voicing hope that future outer space exploration will share its riches with all of humanity. Photo credit: Vadim Sadovski via www.shutterstock.com
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