Pope Francis has called for the abolition of nuclear weapons across the world, categorically denouncing the possession of such weapons as “indefensible” and “perverse.”
The pontiff made the remarks in a speech on Sunday, as he arrived in the Japanese city of Nagasaki, which the United States nuked during the Second World War.
Denouncing the “unspeakable horror” suffered by the victims of the US atomic bombing, the head of the Roman Catholic Church said possessing nuclear arms was “an indefensible perverse dichotomy.”
This marked a break from previous pontiffs. Pope John Paul II, in a 1982 speech, had described nuclear deterrence as a “necessary evil.”
Pope Francis denounced that concept of deterrence.
“This place makes us deeply aware of the pain and horror that we human beings are capable of inflicting upon one another,” the Pope said in Nagasaki, on which the US dropped an atomic bomb in 1945.
“Here in this city, which witnessed the catastrophic humanitarian and environmental consequences of a nuclear attack, our attempts to speak out against the arms race will never be enough,” the Pope said.
The Pope said peace was incompatible with the “fear of mutual destruction or the threat of total annihilation,” and that nuclear weapons were “not the answer” to a desire for security, peace, and stability.
“In a world where millions of children and families live in inhumane conditions, the money that is squandered and the fortunes made through the manufacture, upgrading, maintenance and sale of ever more destruction weapons are an affront crying out to heaven,” Pope Francis said.
He concluded his remarks by asking political leaders to remove their reliance on such weapons.
“I ask political leaders not to forget that these weapons cannot protect us from current threats to national and international security. We need to ponder the catastrophic impact of their deployment, especially from a humanitarian and environmental standpoint, and reject heightening a climate of fear, mistrust, and hostility fomented by nuclear doctrines,” the pontiff said.
The United States twice hit Japan with nuclear weapons at the end of World War II — in the city of Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, and in Nagasaki three days later.
The bombings claimed the lives of 140,000 people in Hiroshima and 74,000 in Nagasaki. Many died immediately while others succumbed to injuries or radiation-related illnesses weeks, months, and years later.
The US has never apologized for the deadly attacks.
Japan surrendered on August 15, 1945, bringing an end to the war. The blasts also ushered in the Cold War, a period of tensions and an arms race between the US and the former Soviet Union.
The Pope plans to travel to Hiroshima on Sunday evening and is scheduled to deliver another peace speech there.
Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei has already in a religious decree (fatwa) banned the development, possession, and maintenance of atomic weapons.