Vatican Sets Sights on Small Arms

Says Weapons Can´t Be Viewed Merely as Commercial Goods

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NEW YORK, JULY 13, 2001 (Zenit.org).- Saying it "is not an absolute right" to bear and trade in small arms, the Vatican advocated steps to limit and regulate the flow of such weapons.



Monsignor Celestino Migliore, Vatican undersecretary for relations with states, on Wednesday addressed a U.N. conference to curb small arms.

The head of the Vatican delegation began his address by stating that since "there is a close relationship between weapons and violence, weapons and destruction, weapons and hatred coupled with social disintegration, arms cannot be treated simply like commercial goods."

Monsignor Migliore said that "the ethical, social and humanitarian importance of the topic under discussion cannot be separated from, but in fact must serve as the framework for, any consideration of the supply and demand of small arms and light weapons for security, political and economic reasons."

The Vatican aide indicated that for "certain types of weapons, such as anti-personnel mines, it has been possible to devise a convention that prohibits their use, stockpiling, production and transfer.... Nevertheless, it is well known that small arms and light weapons are the primary weapons used in conflicts of every kind throughout the world."

Quoting the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, Monsignor Migliore said: "In a world marked by evil ... the right of legitimate defense by means of arms exists. This right can become a serious duty for those who are responsible for the lives of others, for the common good of the family, or of the civil community. This right alone can justify the possession or transfer of arms."

However, he added, it "is not an absolute right, since there are specific conditions placed on the licitness of the production, possession and acquisition of arms."

Monsignor Migliore highlighted the significance of "mechanisms for prevention, reduction, accountability and control" of small arms, "such as the creation of systems of marking, tracing and record-keeping; the defining of criteria for the export of arms; ... the inclusion of mechanisms for collecting and destroying arms in peace process; [and] the establishment of adequate standards for the management and security of the stocks of these weapons."

The Vatican representative said that, in addressing the problem of illicit traffic in arms, the ultimate goal is the "protection of the life and dignity of each and every human person." He continued: "Civil populations suffer the most tragic consequences from the use of light weapons and small arms; the majority of the victims of these arms are civilians, most of whom are women and children."

"Children in particular suffer a twofold evil effect," he said, "since on the one hand they are passively exposed to the dangers of these arms and, on the other, they play an active part in conflicts when they are forced into the reprehensible role of child-soldiers."

Monsignor Migliore appealed for "strong action, on the part of the international community, which must show particular concern for children affected by conflict situations in various regions of the world, and must work to reunite them with their families, and reintegrate them into society by appropriate means of rehabilitation."

The Vatican official concluded his address by quoting the Holy Father´s message for the World Day of Peace at the beginning of this year: "The culture of solidarity is closely connected with the value of peace. ...

"The alarming increase of arms runs the risk of feeding and expanding a culture of competition and conflict, a culture involving not only states but also non-institutional entities, such as paramilitary groups and terrorist organizations. ... Faced with such threats, everyone must feel the moral duty to take concrete and timely steps to promote the cause of peace and understanding among peoples."