News Headlines > Easy access to small-scale weapons is 'homicidal madness', Francis tells ambassadors to the Vatican

09 January 2017 | by Christopher Lamb

Easy access to small-scale weapons is 'homicidal madness', Francis tells ambassadors to the Vatican

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Thinly-veiled warning to US on guns policy ahead of Donald Trump's inauguration later this month

Pope Francis has issued a call for peace in 2017 by condemning easy access to small-scale weapons while urging faith leaders to call out religiously-inspired terrorism as “homicidal madness”.

In a speech delivered to Holy See ambassadors from across the world this morning, Francis said that the distribution of “conventional weapons” - which include guns, land mines, shells and bombs - are sparking conflicts around the world and creating a climate of fear.  

“With regard to conventional weapons, we need to acknowledge that easy access to the sale of arms, including those of small calibre, not only aggravates various conflicts, but also generates a widespread sense of insecurity and fear,” the Pope told the diplomats assembled in the Vatican’s Sala Regia hall inside the Apostolic Palace. “This is all the more dangerous in times, like our own, of social uncertainty and epochal changes.”

While he did not single out any specific country, his remarks will be welcomed by those calling for tougher gun laws in the United States, a country routinely blighted by deaths caused by firearms.

Americans are ten times more likely to be killed by guns than people in other developed countries, according to the latest figures collated and published by the American Journal of Medicine.

The easy access to small-scale weapons is also a factor behind Jihadist motivated terrorism across the world, acts which Francis called on faith leaders to condemn. 

“We are dealing with a homicidal madness which misuses God’s name in order to disseminate death, in a play for domination and power,” the Pope explained. “Hence I appeal to all religious authorities to join in reaffirming unequivocally that one can never kill in God’s name.” 

Fundamentalist terrorism, Francis said, was the result of “a profound spiritual poverty” which can only be defeated by religious and political leaders working together: on the faith side this requires an emphasis on love of neighbour while politicians must recognise the role of faith in building the common good.

“Government leaders are also responsible for ensuring that conditions do not exist that can serve as fertile terrain for the spread of forms of fundamentalism,” he explained. 

The Pope’s “state of the world” speech is delivered annually to envoys who represent their country’s interests to the Holy See: the Vatican currently has relations with 182 states with 88 ambassadors permanently based in Rome. 

His address today focussed on peace and security and was a grand sweep across different parts of the world including the Middle East, Africa, Asia and central America. 

Francis called for a dialogue between different faiths as a way of combatting religious violence and cited his visit to Sweden marking the 500th anniversary of the Reformation and also citing the Council of Europe’s initiative on the need to understand religion in order to prevent radicalisation and extremism.

“We know that there has been no shortage of acts of religiously motivated violence, beginning with Europe itself, where the historical divisions between Christians have endured all too long,” the Pope explained. “In my recent visit to Sweden, I mentioned the urgent need for healing past wounds and journeying together towards common goals. The basis of that journey can only be authentic dialogue between different religious confessions. Such dialogue is possible and necessary.”

He went on: “Sadly, we are conscious that even today, religious experience, rather than fostering openness to others, can be used at times as a pretext for rejection, marginalisation and violence.” 

The Pope described terrorist atrocities as “vile acts that use children to kill, as in Nigeria, target people at prayer, as in the Coptic Cathedral of Cairo, or travellers or workers, as in Brussels, or passers-by in the streets of cities like Nice and Berlin, or simply people celebrating the arrival of the new year, as in Istanbul.”

When it came to global uncertainty Francis once again condemned the arms trade, called for non-violence and warned about the “never-ending race” to create increasingly sophisticated weaponry. He expressed particular concern about the Korean peninsular after North Korea said they were developing nuclear weapons. 

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