Scientists, Catholic leaders urge President Biden to work for a world free of nuclear weapons

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On 12 May 2021, a group of 14 scientists and Catholic leaders, including Pax Christi International senior advisor Marie Dennis, released a statement calling on President Joe Biden to reduce the threat that nuclear weapons pose to the world and tp work with other nations toward their abolishment. The statement urged the Biden administration to revise dated U.S. nuclear policies, reduce U.S. spending on nuclear weapons, and engage in diplomacy with Russia and other countries, including at the upcoming review conference of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), which takes place in New York this August.

The statement was coordinated by the Union of Concerned Scientists’ (UCS) Global Security Program and Stephen Colecchi, the former director of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Office of International Justice and Peace.

“Pax Christi members in many lands welcome renewed U.S. engagement in things that make for peace,” said Greet Vanaerschot, Secretary General of Pax Christi International. “We support this timely call for the U.S. government to lead nuclear powers by example and meet disarmament obligations that are long overdue. There’s synergy in the measures outlined here. Each step reminds us of the nuclear ban, already in view, and of our common humanity too.”

A nuclear weapon can kill more than a million people if dropped on a major city, and there are thousands of these weapons in existence. Just the production and testing of these weapons have had a devastating human cost.

The Catholic tradition, as in many other faith traditions, forbids the use of weapons of mass destruction and condemns the nuclear arms race. Every pope since St. John XXIII in 1963 has called for global nuclear disarmament and the elimination of nuclear weapon stockpiles. In January, Pope Francis expressed support for the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons and appealed to countries to “work decisively toward promoting the conditions necessary for a world without nuclear weapons.”

The statement affirms President Biden’s extension of the New START Treaty with Russia and calls on the administration to further reduce risks by:

  • declaring that the United States will never use nuclear weapons first;
  • working with Russia and then with other nations to verifiably reduce nuclear arsenals;
  • redirecting nuclear weapons spending toward other pressing needs that build human security;
  • affirming the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons as complementary to existing disarmament agreements;
  • working for a successful conclusion at the tenth review conference of the NPT, with nuclear states honoring their disarmament obligations;
  • ratifying and bringing into force the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty;
  • promote a Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty to prohibit production of weapons-grade materials;
  • strengthening the International Atomic Energy Agency to monitor compliance with disarmament obligations; and
  • extending the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act, set to expire in 2022.

Read the entire statement here.