By Vatican News staff reporter
On Friday, 22 January 2021, the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) comes into force.
Road to ratification
This Nuclear Weapon Ban Treaty is the first legally binding international agreement to comprehensively prohibit nuclear weapons. It was adopted on 7 July 2017, and opened for signature on 20 September 2017.
On that same day, Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, the Vatican's Secretary for Relations with States, signed the Treaty at the United Nations Headquarters in New York. When Honduras ratified the treaty in late October 2020, it reached the mandatory 50 ratifications.
The Treaty comprehensively prohibits states from participating in any nuclear weapons-related activities, including development, testing, possession, stockpile, use, or threat of use of nuclear weapons.
Signatories are also obliged “to prevent and suppress any activity prohibited under the TPNW undertaken by persons or on territory under its jurisdiction or control.”
A number of countries have objected to the Treaty. The United States, the United Kingdom, and France say it “risks undermining the existing international security architecture which contributes to the maintenance of international peace and security,” and that all states “share a common responsibility to protect and strengthen our collective security system in order to further promote international peace, stability, and security.”
Pope Francis on Nuclear Weapons
During his Apostolic Visit to Japan in November 2019, Pope Francis spoke of the “unspeakable horror” of nuclear weapons.
Visiting Nagasaki, he called on world leaders to end their stockpiling. “Convinced as I am that a world without nuclear weapons is possible and necessary, I ask political leaders not to forget that these weapons cannot protect us from current threats to national and international security,” he said.
UK Bishops call
As the Treaty comes into force on 22 January, UK Bishops have described it as an “historic milestone on the path to nuclear disarmament and an opportunity to refocus on genuine peacebuilding rooted in dialogue, justice, respect for human dignity, and care for our planet.”
In a statement issued on Monday, Declan Lang, Bishop of Clifton and Chair of the International Affairs Department, of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, along with Bishop William Nolan and Bishop William Kenney, reiterate their call for the UK “to forsake its nuclear arsenal."
They point out that "the resources spent on manufacturing, maintaining and upgrading these weapons of mass destruction should be reinvested to alleviate the suffering of the poorest and most vulnerable members of our society, for the Common Good of all peoples.”
The Bishops also implore the UK government “to strengthen its arms control regulations, tackling the manufacture and sale of other weaponry, which continues to destroy so many lives throughout the world."
Finally, they pray that the “Lord, Father of our human family,” will “move us to create healthier societies and a more dignified world, a world without hunger, poverty, violence and war.”