Just days before President George W Bush announced plans to develop the 'Star Wars' missile defence system, the Catholic peace movement issued a call to the Church and the world to renew their commitment to nuclear disarmament. In a statement endorsed by more than 20 cardinals, bishops and priests, Pax Christi said they believe the Church and other religious organisations have an important role to play in information and mobilising public opinion on the issues confronting our common security. They said: "Despite the end of the Cold War, the threat of nuclear weapons has not disappeared - far from it." Addressing all states, Pax Christi calls for urgent negotiation of a nuclear disarmament convention at the top of the international agenda. They say: "We see nuclear weapons abolition as a major component in the process of re-examining our traditional ideas about security and war. Our ultimate vision is of a peace built on common security based on justice and reconciliation. It is for all of us to work for the elimination of war, the priority of nonviolence and the establishment of a global culture of peace." The statement is signed by: Patriarch Michel Sabbah, International President of Pax Christi, former International Presidents, Cardinal Konig (Vienna) and Cardinal Danneels (Malines), Bishop Luigi Bettazzi (Ivrea) and all Bishop Presidents of Pax Christi, including British President, Victor Guazzelli and fifteen members of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales: Archbishop Patrick Kelly, Bishops' Rawsthorne, Griffiths, Alexander, Pargeter, O'Donaghue, Thomas McMahon, Brain, Malone, Noble, Crowley, Regan, Malcolm McMahon, Smith and Henderson. Pax Christi British Section has also produce an election briefing on nuclear and arms trade issues. The full statement follows below: The Elimination of Nuclear Weapons - A Statement by Pax Christi International We call upon all states to put urgent negotiation of a nuclear disarmament convention at the top of the international agenda. We welcome the overwhelming support given to the "New Agenda Resolution" in the United Nations General Assembly in November 2000, including that of most (though regrettably not all) of the states which possess nuclear weapons. We see nuclear weapons abolition as a major component in the process of re-examining our traditional ideas about security and war. Our ultimate vision is of a peace built on common security based on justice and reconciliation. It is for all of us to work for the elimination of war, the priority of non-violence and the establishment of a global culture of peace. The Holy See has summarised the measures that need to be pursued at the present time; measures largely agreed by the expert opinion-makers: "It should be an immediate objective of the international community to eliminate non-strategic nuclear weapons, de-alert weapons by removing warheads from delivery vehicles, establish a legally binding negative security assurance regime, and secure from the Nuclear Weapons States a pledge not to be the first to use nuclear weapons." Negotiations do not have to start from scratch. A detailed scheme for nuclear abolition has been prepared and is lodged with the United Nations. We welcome the recent vote at the United Nations affirming the need of a universal and multilaterally negotiated legally binding instrument or a framework encompassing a mutually reinforcing set of instruments for the establishment of a nuclear-weapon-free world, although we are disappointed that the New Agenda Resolution's adopted text has weakened the sense of urgency present in the earlier drafts. Certain immediate steps should be taken which would move us closer to abolition. We urge: 1. Russia and the USA to make rapid progress towards Start III with lower limits than those envisaged at Helsinki. 2. The smaller Nuclear Weapons states to promote multilateral disarmament negotiations for the purpose of reducing nuclear arsenals in order to make progress towards the global elimination of nuclear weapons. The UK and France should take a lead here, by abandoning talk of relying on nuclear weapons for national security, promoting a no first use treaty among the Nuclear Weapons States, and announcing their intention not to replace their current arsenals at any time in the future. 3. All states to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, and to promote its early entry into force. 4. The removal of nuclear weapons from the territory of all non-nuclear European states. 5. Nuclear weapons everywhere to be taken off alert, including removing warheads from all land-based missiles and placing them in secure internationally monitored storage. 6. A no first use pledge to be given by all nuclear weapon states, as a confidence building measure. 7. The establishment of nuclear weapon free zones where they do not yet exist, such as in the Middle East, Central Europe and South Asia.
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