Holy See "Working Intensely" to Stop Cluster Bombs

Archbishop Tomasi Hopes Dublin Conference Brings Results

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DUBLIN, Ireland, MAY 22, 2008 (Zenit.org).- The Holy See is working hard to put an end to the use of cluster bombs, affirmed one of its representatives.



A delegation from the Holy See, led by Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, permanent observer at the U.N. offices in Geneva, is participating in the conference taking place in Dublin through May 30. Some 100 countries are represented there.

Archbishop Tomasi affirmed that the "Holy See is working intensely so as to be able to approve, together with other countries, a new juridical instrument that we hope will be truly efficacious, operative and decisively prohibit and eliminate the use, transport and storage of cluster bombs."

The archbishop told Vatican Radio that the effort is based on "the desire to prevent civilian populations being victimized, particularly, to prevent that [civilians] pay an overly elevated price because of activities of a military character."

"The Holy See forms part of a small group of states that, for a few years now, is creating public opinion and is working through operative organizations, and even juridical ones, to reach practical conclusions that can limit the damage caused by these weapons," he explained. "For example, after 40 years of using these bombs in Southeast Asia, still today there continue to be people killed and wounded by them. Therefore, we are not speaking of an abstract or historical reality, but rather of something that continues producing victims.

"Therefore, we, as a Church, as Christians, who want to be sensitive to the protection of the most vulnerable, are trying to do something to limit the impact of these devices on people, who afterward pay the consequences for the rest of their lives, that is, if they haven't lost their lives."

Papal voice

On Sunday, Benedict XVI expressed his hopes that "through the responsibility of all the participants, a strong and credible international instrument will be created" at the Dublin Diplomatic Conference on Cluster Munitions.

"In fact it is necessary to remedy the errors of the past and to avoid their repetition in the future," added the Holy Father. "I accompany the victims of cluster munitions and their families with my prayers as well as the participants in the conference, offering my best wishes of success."

Cluster munitions are weapons that include cargo containers and so-called submunitions.

The cargo containers are fired, launched and dropped by aircraft or land-based artillery. The containers open over a target area and disperse large numbers of the submunitions that are designed to explode when they hit a target.

Submunitions are classified as either bomblets, grenades or mines, and can be powerful enough to destroy armored vehicles.

The vast majority of cluster munitions contain hundreds of submunitions that are unguided and that cover 1 square kilometer (0.4 square mile) with explosions and shrapnel.

It is said that more than 70 countries have a stockpile of these bombs. Statistics show that up to 30% fail to explode, threatening passers-by for many years.