At the end of the weekly general audience, held today in St. Peter's Square, the Pope addressed the participants in the conference under way in the United Nations to review the 1970 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
"The process toward a concerted and secure disarmament is closely connected with the full and solicitous fulfillment of international commitments," the Pontiff stated. "Peace, in fact, rests on trust and on respect of assumed obligations, and not only on the balance of forces.
"With this spirit, I encourage initiatives that pursue a progressive disarmament and the creation of areas free of nuclear arms, in the prospect of their complete elimination form the planet."
"I exhort, finally, all the participants in the New York meeting to surmount the conditionings of history and to knit patiently the political and economic fabric of peace, to help integral human development and the authentic aspirations of peoples," he concluded.
The Treaty of Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Armaments, which was signed on July 1, 1968 in London, Moscow and Washington and which came into force on March 5, 1970, arose with the objective of limiting the indiscriminate spread of nuclear arms, limiting their possession to states recognized as "militarily nuclear": the United States, the Soviet Union, Great Britain, France and China, which adhered in 1992.
Essentially, the treaty prohibits signatory states that do not have nuclear armament, from receiving or producing these armaments and from obtaining technologies and material that can be used for the construction of nuclear armaments; and it prohibits the signatory "nuclear wtates" from giving others nuclear arms or technologies to construct them.
The treaty provides for the transference of nuclear material and technology for peaceful uses, under the strict control of the International Atomic Energy Agency.
An important step forward was taken in 2000 when the "Thirteen Points" document was approved, which provided among other things for a complete ban on nuclear tests and the commitment of nuclear States to unilateral disarmament.
However, the 2005 review had disastrous results, and the nuclear states did not accept this document as the basis for discussions.
At present, the treaty has been signed by 188 countries. It has not been signed by India, Pakistan or Israel.
Gareth Evans, co-president of the International Commission for Non-Proliferation and Nuclear Disarmament stressed, in an article in today's edition of L'Osservatore Romano, that "of crucial importance this year also will be the ratification, by the U.S. Senate, of the new treaty between the United States and Russia to limit the deployment of strategic nuclear arms."
"Not because the benefits of this agreement are very relevant, but because it is the foundation of all the reduction of armaments by both super-powers," he added. "In fact, they possess 98% of the world stock of 23,000 nuclear warheads, which are equivalent to 150,000 bombs of Hiroshima and which potentially can destroy the world several times over."
Moreover, he stressed, according to the Report published recently by the International Commission on Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament, entitled "Eliminating Nuclear Threats: A Practical Agenda for Global Policymaking," the threats posed by nuclear arms, both by governments as well as terrorists, are very real, greater now than before; and "while just one country has nuclear arms, others will also want them."
"If these arms continue to exist," said Evans, "sooner or later they will be used, by mistake, by error of calculation or intentionally, whatever use made of them will be catastrophic for the life of this planet as we know it."