THE Vatican will host this month a conference in which some officials of the United Nations (UN), the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), Nobel peace laureates, and other world figures will meet on the issue of nuclear weapons.
Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the Holy See’s permanent observer in the UN, said it is clear that the world today is “facing a real risk of the use of atomic weapons.” It could happen “by chance, by choice, or because those sitting in the rooms with the buttons are unbalanced,” he added.
He was evidently referring to leaders of North Korea and the United States who have traded personal insults in recent weeks, along with threats of total destruction. North Korea’s Kim Jong Un and US President Donald Trump may just be engaging in bombastic rhetoric, but as Archbishop Tomasi said, they just might push the nuclear buttons in one human moment of weakness or desperation or insanity.
Pope Francis will address the two-day conference on the first day on November 10. He will be followed by several other speakers, including the executive director of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, which won this year’s Nobel Peace Prize. A survivor of the atomic bombing of Nagasaki, Japan, in World War II will give a personal testimony.
The US will probably send an official whose words will carry great weight in the conference. It is not known if North Korea or its main ally China will send someone. Neither country has diplomatic relations with the Vatican but their presence or absence would make a big difference to the gathering.
The Vatican conference is an initiative being taken by people who are concerned, driven by a moral responsibility to do something about a world problem that seems to defy solution by governments. The UN has tried for years to restrain North Korea with increasing economic sanctions, to no avail.
Pope Francis and the many other concerned citizens of the world meeting at the Vatican on November 10-11 have nothing but moral authority, but they may be able to do something about a growing problem posed by the threat of nuclear annihilation. The world’s hopes certainly go with them.