HomeNewsMake nuclear disarmament a priority, Catholic bishops urge G7 Summit

Make nuclear disarmament a priority, Catholic bishops urge G7 Summit

The four bishops urged G7 leaders “to undertake concrete steps toward global, verifiable nuclear disarmament”

Four Catholic bishops from the U.S. and Japan called for G7 leaders to take action against nuclear weapons amid a “more dangerous” arms race and an escalated threat of nuclear war.

“We strongly urge world leaders at the G7 Summit to show by example how international leadership is ready, willing, and able to work with nuclear weapons and nonnuclear weapons states to ensure no country or city ever suffers the horrors of nuclear war again,” said the four bishops in a May 15 letter to G7 leaders.

Signing the letter were Archbishop Paul D. Etienne of Seattle and Archbishop John C. Wester of Santa Fe, New Mexico, joined by Archbishop Peter Michiaki Nakamura of Nagasaki and Bishop Alexis Mitsuru Shirahama of Hiroshima.

The two U.S. bishops’ archdioceses have major connections to nuclear weapons. The letter said they are “the spiritual leaders of the diocese with the most spending on nuclear weapons in the United States (Santa Fe, New Mexico), the diocese with the most deployed strategic nuclear weapons in the United States (Seattle), and the only two dioceses in the world to have suffered atomic attacks (Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan).” 

Hiroshima and Nagasaki were the targets of the first atomic bombings in August 1945. The bombings from U.S. aircraft helped end the Second World War. The attacks caused an estimated 214,000 combined deaths immediately and tens of thousands more died from radiation exposure, according to BBC News.

The American and Japanese bishops’ letter, citing their different histories, said: “We are compelled to speak out.” They noted the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which has raised fears of a nuclear exchange.

“Rather than viewing the war in Ukraine as an overwhelming impediment toward making substantial progress, we view it instead as a clear demonstration of the absolute need to do so,” the bishops said.

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Hiroshima hosts the 49th G7 summit May 19 to May 21. The event brings together leaders from the U.S., Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and the U.K. to discuss matters of global importance. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is a major issue at the meeting.

The four bishops urged G7 leaders “to undertake concrete steps toward global, verifiable nuclear disarmament.” They deemed the current nuclear arms race to be “more dangerous than the first.” They cited “multiple nuclear actors and the advent of new cyber and hypersonic weapons and artificial intelligence.”

“Former U.S. Defense Secretary Robert McNamara asserted that humanity survived the Cuban Missile Crisis only by luck. Luck is not sufficient to ensure the continuing survival of the human race,” their letter said.

The bishops encouraged G7 leaders to focus international attention on “the importance of nuclear arms control and disarmament” and to show a “global commitment” to nuclear nonproliferation efforts.

“Throughout the years, world leaders have spoken about the need to eliminate the threat of nuclear weapons, prevent a new nuclear arms race, and avoid the ultimate catastrophe that is potentially civilization-ending nuclear war,” the bishops said. “But it is now time to translate rhetoric into action.”

The bishops praised Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s choice of Hiroshima for the summit, calling this choice “a powerful message.” They “enthusiastically” praised the plans for a meeting between G7 leaders and survivors of the 1945 atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This is “a step toward recognizing the long-lasting horrors of nuclear warfare,” their letter said.

On Friday, G7 leaders issued their first-ever statement on nuclear disarmament, with a special focus on Russia.

“Russia’s irresponsible nuclear rhetoric, undermining of arms control regimes, and stated intent to deploy nuclear weapons in Belarus are dangerous and unacceptable,” in the statement released by the White House. “We reiterate our position that threats by Russia of nuclear weapon use, let alone any use of nuclear weapons by Russia, in the context of its aggression against Ukraine are inadmissible.”

They also criticized efforts from North Korea and Iran to develop nuclear weapons and warned that China’s nuclear arsenal expansion poses a threat to regional and global stability.

Russia was formerly part of the G7 Group — then known as the G8. Its membership was suspended over its military annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014.

Pope Francis has repeatedly condemned the use and possession of nuclear weapons.

“Trying to defend and ensure stability and peace through a false sense of security and a ‘balance of terror,’ sustained by a mentality of fear and mistrust inevitably ends up poisoning relationships between peoples and obstructing any possible form of real dialogue,” he said in June 2022. “Possession leads easily to threats of their use, becoming a sort of ‘blackmail’ that should be repugnant to the consciences of humanity.”

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