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Disarmament Diplomacy

Issue No. 20, November 1997

Vatican Speech to the First Committee

Speech by Archbishop Renato R. Martino, Permanent Representative of the Holy See to the United Nations, to the UN First Committee (Disarmament and International Security), 15 October 1997

Editor's note: two readers have contacted the journal querying the omission, in the summary of the First Committee's General Debate in the last issue, of the statement of the Holy See. This statement, as they point out, is perhaps the clearest condemnation of nuclear weapons ever issued by the Vatican. I am glad to make amends with the following extracts:

"Nuclear weapons, aptly described as the 'ultimate evil', are still possessed by the most powerful States which refuse to let them go. ... If biological weapons, chemical weapons, and now landmines can be done away with, so too can nuclear weapons. No weapon so threatens the longed-for peace of the 21st century as the nuclear. Let not the immensity of this task dissuade us from the efforts needed to free humanity from such a scourge. With the valuable admonition offered in the Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice, the international community can now see how the legal and moral arguments against nuclear weapons intertwine with the strategic: since nuclear weapons can destroy all life on the planet, they imperil all that humanity has ever stood for, and indeed humanity itself. ...

The work that this Committee has done in calling for negotiations leading to a Nuclear Weapons Convention must be increased. Those nuclear-weapon States resisting such negotiations must be challenged, for, in clinging to their outmoded rationales for nuclear deterrence, they are denying the most ardent aspirations of humanity as well as the opinion of the highest legal authority in the world. The gravest consequences for mankind lie ahead if the world is to be ruled by the militarism represented by nuclear weapons rather than by the International Court of Justice."

Source: L'Osservatore Romano (Vatican newspaper - English language edition), 29 October.

© 1998 The Acronym Institute.

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