More than a quarter of Catholic bishops in England have called for global nuclear disarmament in a statement from faith groups to mark the seventy-fifth anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
The statement, which also called for the cancellation of plans to renew Trident, the UK’s nuclear programme, was signed by the Archbishops of Birmingham and Liverpool, as well as the Bishops of Hallam, Nottingham and Leeds. Catholic priests, Religious and lay campaigners were also among the 206 signatories to the message from Christian CND.
It came as more bishops from the English and Scottish Churches issued a joint statement calling for the abolition of nuclear weapons. The Bishops of Galloway and Clifton argued “it is unjust to continue squandering precious resources” on nuclear weapons when serious problems of poverty and destitution persist in the world.
They were among Christians from around the world who marked the run-up to Hiroshima Day, the 75th anniversary of the atomic bombing of the city of Hiroshima in 1945, by calling for the abolition of nuclear weapons.
In London, peace campaigners took part in socially distanced vigils outside Westminster Cathedral to remember those who died on 6 and 9 August 1945. Between 90,000 and 146,000 people in Hiroshima and 39,000 and 80,000 people in Nagasaki died in the immediate aftermath of the bombings. The total death toll, including cancers and disabilities, is likely to be significantly higher.
In their joint statement, bishops from the English, Welsh and Scottish Churches issued a joint statement calling for the abolition of nuclear weapons.
William Nolan, Bishop of Galloway, Declan Lang, Bishop of Clifton and William Kenney, Auxiliary Bishop of Birmingham, argued “it is unjust to continue squandering precious resources” on nuclear weapons when serious problems of poverty and destitution persist in the world. Citing Pope Francis’s previous statements on nuclear weapons, the bishops asserted that the continued ownership of nuclear weapons by the UK is “completely incompatible with our efforts to build peace.”
The leading peace campaigners of the German Catholic and Evangelical Churches have issued a joint statement calling for “political leaders to take serious and goal-oriented steps towards a world free of nuclear weapons”. In their statement they emphasise that nuclear warfare is not a “ghost of history”, but a real and present threat, with over 16,000 nuclear warheads still in use by world powers. Indeed, given rising geopolitical tensions, the two peace activists believe that “the danger of an escalation of nuclear violence is now within reach”. The statement, issued by the President of the German Commission for Justice and Peace, Bishop Dr Heiner Wilmer, and the Representative for Peace Issues of the Council of the Evangelical Church in Germany, Renke Brahms, specifically calls for the acceptance and ratification of the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons by Germany.
Two Catholic religious orders also backed calls for world nuclear disarmament, in support of the Pope’s previous statements on the subject. The Missionary Society of St Columban and the Congregation of the Sisters of St Joseph of Peace have declared their opposition to nuclear weapons, and the production, possession, testing and use of such technologies. The Columbans, founded in 1918, also emphasised, through a statement by their General Council, that they support non-violence as the most effective means to global security and peace. The Sisters of St Joseph of Peace further stated that they had now committed to “identifying and divesting from institutions that finance the companies that build nuclear weapons.”
2020 marks the 75th anniversary of the atomic bombings by the United States of the Japanese cities of Hiroshima, on August 6, and Nagasaki, on August 9. Between 90,000 and 146,000 people in Hiroshima and 39,000 and 80,000 people in Nagasaki died in the immediate aftermath of the bombings. The total death toll, including cancers and disabilities amongst those living in the region of the bombings, is likely to be significantly higher.
After the bombings, the then pope, Pius XII, described nuclear bombs as “the most terrible weapon that the human mind has ever conceived”. The Catholic Church has opposed the use of nuclear arms in the decades since the attacks, and the present Pope, Francis, has extended this opposition to the possession of nuclear weapons. In his 2019 visit to Japan, the Pope condemned the “unspeakable horror” of nuclear weapons, and condemned the industries devoted to their creation as “an affront crying out to heaven”.