Addressing a rally against nuclear weapons outside the Faslane Naval Base on the Gare Loch on Saturday, 16 April, Cardinal Keith O'Brien described Britain's nuclear weapons programme as "shameful" and urged the British Governement, "do the right thing and give it up". Quoting the words of Pope Benedict XVI, he said: "In a nuclear war there would be no victors, only victims."
The full text of Cardinal O'Brien's address follows:
It’s a great delight for me to be here at Faslane today, in the company of my old friends Rev Alan McDonald and Bruce Kent, and so many others of you who have made the journey to be here for this splendid witness of peace. We three first spoke together in Edinburgh, in 2006, at the opening of the Lauriston Jesuit Centre, and we have since shared platforms in Glasgow and elsewhere, and I think we’ll all be ready and willing to do so for some time to come too, indeed, for as long as it takes. We’ll do this because the message we share here is a vital one, a fundamental one, one which is at the heart of Christian faith.
As we enter Holy Week, to be followed by the great season of Easter, we recall that the refrain of Jesus Christ, again and again, was the phrase ‘peace be with you’. We are here today to repeat that message now, not just as a desire for ourselves, but as a desire for the whole human family, a desire for peace, deep peace based on a freedom from fear, rooted in the dream of a world free from the threat of annihilation.
I’ve been speaking of the teaching of the Catholic Church on nuclear weapons for many years now, telling our message to whoever is willing to listen, and I’m very pleased to repeat that teaching again today. As you’ll see, it’s a consistent teaching, a central part of our pro life stance, that has human dignity at its very core. And it’s a message I’m all the more glad to repeat here at the gates of Faslane, which is the very heart of Britain’s nuclear weapons industry.
I’ve had many invitations to come here for ecumenical events over the years, and have thus far been unable to accept, so I’m particularly glad to be able to do so now, at this present time, when there is more need than ever before to be rid of our weapons of mass destruction.
The consistent message of the Catholic Church is plain and simple and was summed up by Pope Benedict in his very first message for World Day for Peace, in 2006. He was speaking to our British government, and to those other few governments who mistakenly believe nuclear weapons have any place in a civilised society. This was Pope Benedict’s message: “This point of view, that nuclear weapons have any place in a civilised society, is not only baneful but also completely fallacious. In a nuclear war there would be no victors, only victims. The truth of peace requires that all… agree to change their course by clear and firm decisions, and strive for a progressive and concerted nuclear disarmament.”
It should also be noted that in the same message for World Day For Peace, Pope Benedict chose to refer to the entire trade in weapons, not just nuclear weapons. That is a teaching we lose sight of at our peril. Weapons production, from the smallest handgun to rocket launchers, and fighter aircraft, is big business, a massive industry, and to our shame, Britain has a leading role. To quote Pope Benedict yet again: “How can there ever be a future of peace when investments are still made in the production of arms and in research aimed at developing new ones?”
I have seen the truth of this for myself, time and time again, as I journey with SCIAF to visit development projects supported by the people of Scotland. The poorest in the world pay the highest price for an arms trade that brings misery to them, and fortunes to the companies that develop and produce the weapons.
Our own Scottish Bishops have often echoed the peace demands of Pope Benedict, and Pope John Paul before him, and I am here to repeat it once more. Here at the gates of Faslane, there is no better place to say that it is not courageous of Britain to have these dreadful weapons of mass destruction. It is shameful to have them. If our government wished to truly be courageous it would unilaterally give up its nuclear deterrent, giving the witness and impetus for other nations to do the same.
Trident is fast becoming obsolete, and we have the chance now to do the right thing and give it up. We have the chance to be peacemakers, echoing the Easter desire of Jesus Christ for a lasting peace. We will all, I trust, continue working and praying together for this, and I thank you for this witness you all give today. May God bless each of you with deep peace, this Holy Week and at Easter.