In an address to the International Atomic Energy Agency Monday, a Vatican official commended the organization for its preventative efforts to address another global threat: zoonotic diseases that cause pandemics.

The international organization known for safeguarding nuclear energy to prevent nuclear warfare has unveiled a new initiative entitled Zoonotic Disease Integrated Action (ZODIAC), which aims to help countries quickly detect and respond to diseases caused by bacteria, parasites, fungi or viruses that originate in animals and can be transmitted to humans.

“This important global network is crucial to helping national laboratories in monitoring, surveillance, early detection and control of animal and zoonotic diseases such as COVID-19, Ebola, Avian Influenza and Zika,” Archbishop Paul Gallagher said Sept. 21.

Zoonotic diseases are responsible for the deaths of 2.7 million people each year, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Speaking in Vienna at the agency’s 64th annual conference, the Secretary for the Holy See’s Relations with States said that the Vatican supported the ZODIAC project and believed it could further the unique collaboration between laboratories of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and IAEA using nuclear or nuclear-derived technologies.

“This unprecedented pandemic sheds new light on the interdependence between nations and, in particular, on the necessity to consider health as a primary common good, which requires solidarity and coordinated action at the global level,” Gallagher said.

The Vatican diplomat added that it would be desirable for the ZODIAC program to support the research and development for “novel technologies … for early detection and surveillance” of these diseases.

“The current COVID-19 pandemic has exposed problems related to virus detection capabilities in many countries, as well as the need for better communication between health institutions around the world,” he said.

Gallagher said that the Holy See was concerned about the signs of “an erosion of multilateralism and of the rules-based order” in the world, especially surrounding the control and ban of nuclear weapons.

“The Holy See recognizes the important contribution of the IAEA in working for a world free of nuclear weapons,” he said, commending the agency’s goals of nuclear non-proliferation, nuclear disarmament, and the peaceful uses of nuclear technologies.

North Korea’s nuclear activities are currently of “serious concern,” Rafael Grossi, the head of the IAEA, said at the general conference Sept. 21.

“The continuation of the country’s nuclear program is a clear violation of relevant UN Security Council resolutions and is deeply regrettable,” Grossi added.

Gallagher said: “We must continue to work towards our common goal of the elimination of nuclear weapons.”