Vatican at U.N.: Risk of nuclear war is ‘at its highest in generations’

Archbishop Paul R. Gallagher, the Vatican's foreign minister, speaks at the opening session of the U.N. General Assembly in New York Sept. 26, 2023. (CNS photo/Cia Pak, UN photo)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) ─ The international community must cooperate to advance disarmament rather than embrace the "false security" offered by nuclear weapons, the Vatican's foreign minister said.

Speaking Sept. 26 during a high-level meeting on the elimination of nuclear weapons at the U.N. General Assembly in New York, Archbishop Paul R. Gallagher, the Vatican foreign minister, called eliminating nuclear weapons a "moral imperative."

"Regrettably, the risk of nuclear war is at its highest in generations, featuring unconscionable threats of nuclear use, while an arms race runs unabated," he said.

The archbishop lamented how countries "squander resources needed for pressing development concerns on nuclear weapons," and said countries have "abandoned much of the arms control and disarmament structure that underpins international security."

"In this context, it is clear that nuclear-weapons states are increasing reliance on nuclear deterrence" rather than disarmament, he said.

Archbishop Gallagher called for states to adopt disarmament measures including no-first-use policies, treaties managing materials that can undergo fission and assurances that nuclear-weapon states will not use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against states that do not possess them.

The same day, he also spoke during general debate at the opening of the U.N. General Assembly session, criticizing the "crumbling trust among nations" in recent years and how at the United Nations and other international bodies, "richer, more powerful countries attempt to impose their own worldview on poorer countries, promoting alien, cultural values they do not share."

"The international community must maintain the universality of global multilateral forums and not turn them into clubs reserved for a few elites who think alike, and where some are simply tolerated as long as they do not bother anyone," he said.

Archbishop Gallagher also called for legal instruments to regulate artificial intelligence, particularly AI-powered lethal autonomous weapons systems, and for religious freedom to be upheld worldwide.

"The true litmus test to see if human rights are being protected is the degree to which people have freedom of religion or belief in a country," he said. "Religious freedom is one of the absolute minimum requirements necessary to live in dignity."



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