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No to nuclear weapons, yes to nuclear technology – the Holy See’s stance

In an effort to abolish the production of nuclear weapons worldwide, the Holy See is pushing an agreement – with a deadline – between nations, which zeros-in on the use of nuclear energy for positive social development.

The Holy See will promote the terms about an eventual agenda to nuclear disarmament at the upcoming Treaty of the Non Proliferation of Nuclear weapons conference held at the United Nations in New York from April 27 to May 22.

A source involved in the negotiations but not authorized to publicly comment on the issue explained to CNA April 22 that the Holy See’s approach is “more global than the so called ‘step by step’ approach, which seems to be another way to say that nuclear weapons will remain, since the negotiations might be never ending."

The Holy See will foster this position during the Review Conference of the Non Proliferation Treaty. Aimed at preventing the spread of nuclear weapons and weapons technology, the treaty promotes cooperation in peaceful uses of nuclear energy and furthering the goal of achieving nuclear disarmament.

However, the Vatican source explained that the geopolitical situation may lead to a weak final document at the conference, which would postpone the issues at stake.

Reasons why the document might be weak are – according to the source – the ongoing Ukrainian and Middle East situations, and tense relations between the United States and Russia.

Since the Non Proliferation treaty went into effect in 1970, and conferences to review it have been held at five year intervals.

The 2015 conference is expected to consider a number of issues, the most important being the universality of the treaty, the practical measures to nuclear to disarmament, and measures to advance the peaceful use of nuclear energy.

In the course of years, the Holy See has developed a nuanced position toward nuclear issue. As a founding member of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the Holy See has historically fostered a peaceful use of the nuclear energy.

In a speech delivered to the agency in September of 2014, Monsignor Antoine Camilleri, Vatican deputy foreign minister, stressed that the agency “contributes to authentic human development and foster peace and prosperity throughout the world."

Msgr. Cammilleri also listed all the fields which benefits from nuclear technology: from healthcare to agriculture, and from quality of nutrition to the fight against devastating pests.

While the Holy See praised the achievements of nuclear technology but discussion remains on how the use and production of nuclear energy should be fostered. Producing nuclear energy also produces nuclear waste, which needs to be placed in and kept under special conditions for decades.

Ultimately, the Holy See says yes to nuclear technology – despite some caveats on the production and use of nuclear energy – and it categorically refuses any use of nuclear weapons.

In December 2014, a conference on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons took place in Vienna.

Speaking at the meeting, Archbishop Silvano Maria Tomasi, Holy See Permanent Observer to the United Nations office in Geneva, underscored “the positive steps made" toward “the goal of a world without nuclear weapons."

He stressed, however, that the Holy See “still thinks these steps are limited, insufficient, and frozen in space and time."


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