Pope Francis renewed calls for global nuclear disarmament at a Vatican meeting, saying the world should condemn not only their possible use but "their very possession."

Mohamed ElBaradei, 2005 Nobel Peace Prize winner, arrives to attend the conference
Mohamed ElBaradei, 2005 Nobel Peace Prize winner, arrives to attend the conference "Perspectives for a World Free from Nuclear Weapons and for Integral Disarmament" at the Vatican, November 10, 2017. (Reuters)

Pope Francis on Friday renewed calls for global nuclear disarmament, warning that new technology had increased the risk of deadly weapons falling into the hands of terrorists.

The appeal came at the start of a two-day conference on nuclear disarmament that has brought together 11 Nobel Peace Prize winners, as well as UN and NATO officials, discussing prospects for a world free of nuclear weapons.

The world should condemn not only their possible use but "their very possession," Francis, in some his strongest comments ever on nuclear weapons said on Friday.

Western powers are also increasingly concerned over the possibility of groups like Daesh getting their hands on the technology that could allow them to manufacture an improvised nuclear device.

"You only have to note that nuclear technologies are spreading, partly because of digital communications, and the instruments of international law have not prevented new states from joining those already in possession of nuclear weapons," Francis told a seminar at the Vatican.

"The resulting scenarios are deeply disturbing if we consider the challenges of contemporary geopolitics, like terrorism or asymmetric warfare."

Despite his overall gloomy tone, Francis said he was encouraged by a recent UN vote declaring the use of nuclear weapons illegal, even in warfare.

'Climate of instability and conflict'

Describing the current international situation as marked by a "climate of instability and conflict," the Argentinian pontiff said the prospects for disarmament appeared "increasingly remote."

"The escalation of the arms race continues unabated and the price of modernising and developing weaponry, not only nuclear weapons, represents a considerable expense for nations."

"As a result, the real priorities facing our human family, such as the fight against poverty, the promotion of peace, the undertaking of educational, ecological and healthcare projects, and the development of human rights, are relegated to second place."

Citing the memory of the victims and survivors of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki nuclear bombs at the end of World War II, Francis said any new use of such weapons would have "catastrophic humanitarian and environmental effects."

"If we also take into account the risk of an accidental detonation as a result of error of any kind, the threat of their use, as well as their very possession, is to be firmly condemned," he added.

"Weapons of mass destruction, particularly nuclear weapons, create nothing but a false sense of security."

Necessity of dialogue

As tensions between the United States and North Korea have increased in recent months, Pope Francis and the Vatican have warned that a nuclear conflict would destroy a good part of humanity.

The Vatican on Friday urged world leaders to shun any unilateral action and seek dialogue to respond to the threat of nuclear weapons.

"Growing inter-dependence means that any response to the threat of nuclear weapons should be collective and consultative, based on mutual trust," Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin said.

Tensions in the Korean peninsula

US President Donald Trump, who has said North Korea "will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen" if it threatened the United States, is visiting South Korea as part of a current trip to Asia.

"This trust can be built only through dialogue that is truly directed to the common good and not to the protection of veiled or particular interests," said Parolin, who ranks second only to the pope in the Vatican hierarchy.

"Such dialogue, as far as possible, should include all. Avoiding conflicts and building bridges – this should be the principle aim of an efficacious, collective and consultative response," he said.

While Parolin did not mention North Korea or Trump, another participant at the conference, Cardinal Peter Turkson, said the world was in "complex and uncertain times."

"By the way, when we planned this conference, we did not know that President Trump would be in the Far East. It just happens to be a happy coincidence," he added. "I guess it has to do with divine providence."

During his stop in Beijing, Trump pressed China to do more to rein in North Korea's nuclear ambitions.

Source: Reuters