Pope urges global disarmament

Vatican City: Pope Francis has issued a fresh call for global disarmament, after a top Vatican prelate warned that the world was standing “on the precipice of a nuclear holocaust.”
Francis spoke on Friday to participants of a Vatican conference on nuclear disarmament, including several Nobel Peace laureates and Masako Wada, a Nagasaki bomb survivor and anti-nukes campaigner.
Officials from the UN, Nato, Russia, United States, South Korea and Iran were also in attendance.
“International relations cannot be held captive to military force, mutual intimidation, and the parading of stockpiles of arms. Weapons of mass destruction, particularly nuclear weapons, create nothing but a false sense of security,” the pontiff said.
“If we also take into account the risk of an accidental detonation as a result of error of any kind, the threat of their use, as well as their very possession, is to be firmly condemned,” he added.
Earlier, Cardinal Peter Turkson opened the two-day Vatican conference deploring “the increasing drum beat of a possible nuclear conflagration and the fact that humanity stands on the precipice of a nuclear holocaust.”
“We live in a moment of human history when fear about potential global catastrophe has intensified to a point rarely experienced since the days of the Cuban Missile Crisis,” Turkson noted, in a likely reference to North Korea. Turkson said it was a “happy coincidence” that the conference was taking place while US President Donald Trump was on a diplomatic mission to Asia, with the North Korea threat featuring prominently in his meetings there. The cardinal said the Vatican hoped to get in touch with Pyongyang, as part of efforts to defuse the crisis.
“(We are) already in communication with the Korean episcopal conference to see how we may have contact also with the regime on the other side,” Turkson was quoted as saying by Catholic website Crux. “We are exploring the possibilities of speaking to them directly.”
Both Turkson and the pope hailed July’s approval at the UN of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, promoted by this year’s Nobel Peace price winner, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN).
“I was honoured to meet Pope Francis today and asked him to lead the Catholic community in a prayer for an end to the threat of nuclear weapons on Sunday, December 10,” ICAN Executive
Director Beatrice Fihn said in a statement.
Francis was presented with a message from five Nobel Peace laureates, including the former director of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohammed El Baradei, and Adolfo Perez Esquivel, a human rights campaigner from the pope’s native Argentina.
The message, also signed by Mairead Maguire of Ireland, Jody Williamsof the US and Muhammad Yunus from Bangladesh, said the development of “lethal autonomous weapons (that) could target and kill human beings” is an additional serious threat to world peace.
“The best solution to this impending third revolution in warfare is to pre-emptively ban such weapons before they appear on the battlefield,” the laureates said.
— dpa