The Holy See
back up


17 September 2012


Mr. President!

1. I have the honour of conveying to you, Mr. President, to the Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Dr. Yukiya Amano, and to all the distinguished participants in this 56th General Conference of the IAEA the best wishes and cordial greetings of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI who, on the occasion of the 50th Anniversary of the IAEA, said: “[T]he commitment to encourage non-proliferation of nuclear arms, to promote a progressive and agreed upon nuclear disarmament and to support the use of peaceful and safe nuclear technology for authentic development, respecting the environment and ever mindful of the most disadvantaged populations, is always more present and urgent” (cf. Angelus Address of July 29, 2007).

2. In a world that is becoming progressively and pervasively globalized“the risk is that the de facto interdependence of people and nations is not matched by ethical interaction of consciences and minds that would give rise to truly human development” (Pope Benedict XVI Encyclical Letter Caritas in veritate, no. 9).

This risk becomes all the more pronounced when considering also the so-called “nuclear renaissance” across the globe and its numerous related challenges in the connection between nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation; the growth in demand for energy; the threats posed by nuclear terrorism and the nuclear black market; the call for nuclear safety and security, etc.. These challenges will be seriously addressed only by cultivating a culture of peace founded upon the primacy of law and the respect for human life.

In this context, the IAEA can and must contribute to favouring an “ethical interaction of consciences and minds” (ibid.), essential in order to respond to those challenges and to promote a truly integral human development, which, for the Holy See, must be “of universal range, in dialogue between knowledge and praxis” (cfr. ibid., no. 4).

Mister President!

3. We all know the strong interlinkages between nuclear disarmament and nuclear non-proliferation: they are interdependent and mutually reinforcing and their transparent and responsible implementation represents one of the principal instruments not only in the fight against nuclear terrorism, but also in the concrete realization of a culture of life and of peace capable of promoting in an effective way the integral development of peoples. In this perspective the international community should show an effective and visible expression of intent to construct and strengthen a global legal basis for the systematic elimination of all nuclear weapons. It can no longer be considered morally sufficient to draw down the stocks of superfluous nuclear weapons while modernizing nuclear arsenals and investing vast sums to ensure their future production and maintenance. For these reasons, the Holy See regards the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) as the cornerstone of the global nuclear non-proliferation regime and will continue to offer its own contribution to the preparation of fertile ground so that the IX Review Conference of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, scheduled for 2015, will produce consistent and encouraging results not only for strengthening the Treaty itself, but also for making it a more effective instrument in responding to the new challenges that are continually emerging on the nuclear horizon.

Mister President!

4. Global security must not rely on nuclear weapons. The Holy See considers the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) an important tool to achieve this aim,without mentioning its potential civil and scientific application through its International Monitoring System. I am honoured to have the name of the Holy See, as well my own name, on the list of countries that support the Ministerial Statement of the VI CTBT Ministerial Conference. The Holy See is convinced that, in working together, the signature, ratification and entry into force of the Treaty will represent a great leap forward for the future of humanity, as well as for the protection of the earth and environment entrusted to our care by the Creator.

Also in this regard, the ratification on the part of all States, in particular nuclear-weapon States, of the respective Protocols to the Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zones Treaties is of paramount importance. The Holy See restates its strong support for the efforts to establish such a zone in the Middle East and remains hopeful for the discussions that will take place on this topic in Finland. Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zones (NWFZ) are the best example of trust, confidence and affirmation that peace and security are possible without possessing nuclear weapons.

5. Humanity deserves no less than the full co-operation of all States in this important matter. Every step on the non-proliferation and disarmament agenda must be built on the principles of the preeminent and inherent value of human dignity and the centrality of the human person, which constitute the basis of international humanitarian law. Last May, on the occasion of the First Preparatory Committee for the 2015 Review Conference of the Parties to the NPT, the Holy See was a co-sponsor of the Joint Statement on the Humanitarian Dimension of Nuclear Disarmament – one of the principal novelties that emerged during that Meeting. Nuclear weapons have the destructive capacity to pose a threat to the survival of humanity and as long as they continue to exist the threat to humanity will remain. Moreover, nuclear weapons are useless in addressing current challenges such as poverty, health, climate change, terrorism or transnational crime. The only way to guarantee that these weapons will not be used again is through their total, irreversible and verifiable elimination, under international control. In this, the IAEA has a central role to play.

Mr. President,

6. Since its foundation, the International Atomic Energy Agency remains an irreplaceable point of reference for international co-operation in the use of nuclear technology for peaceful purposes and for integral human development. In this regard, the Holy See welcomes Fiji, San Marino and Trinidad and Tobago as new Member States of the IAEA’s family.

An important issue affecting not only the IAEA family, but the human family at large, is the topic of nuclear safety. The Holy See closely follows the progress made in the implementation of the IAEA Action Plan on Nuclear Safety and commends the IAEA on its implementation. What transpired at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station quickly revealed that a local nuclear crisis is indeed a global problem. It also revealed that the world is exposed to real and systemic risks, and not just hypothetical ones, with incalculable costs and the necessity of developing an international political coordination the likes of which have never been seen, thus raising many questions.

Energy security and nuclear security require the adoption of appropriate technical and legal measures, as well as action and responses at the cultural and ethical level. In the short term, technical and legal measures are necessary for the protection of nuclear material and sites and the prevention of acts of nuclear terrorism, whose possible devastating effects are truly difficult to imagine. In the long-term, prevention measures are called for, measures that penetrate to the deepest cultural and social roots through, for example, programs of formation for the diffusion of a “culture of safety and security” both in the nuclear sector and in the public conscience in general. A special role must be reserved for codes of conduct for human resources which, in the nuclear sector, must always be conscious of the possible effects of their activity. Security depends upon the State, but above all on the sense of responsibility of each person.

Mister President!

7. The Technical Cooperation Programme (TCP) of the Agency is one of the principal instruments for transferring nuclear science and technology to Member States in order to promote social, economic and integral development. Its initiatives, when tailored to the needs of the recipient States and their partners in the context of national priorities, help to combat poverty and can thus contribute to a more peaceful solution of the serious problems facing humanity.

In this regard, the Holy See is participating in this year’s Scientific Forum dedicated to the topic “Food for the Future: Meeting the Challenges with Nuclear Applications”. This theme highlights the pressing need of fighting the hunger and malnutrition of so many members of the human family. The Holy See obviously has no technical solutions to offer. Nevertheless, it is of the opinion that bio– and nuclear- technologies cannot be evaluated solely on the basis of immediate economic interests. They must be submitted beforehand to rigorous scientific and ethical examination, in order to prevent them from becoming harmful for human health and the future of our planet.

8. Also in the context of the TCP, I wish to mention the particular role of radio-nuclides used in the diagnosis and treatment of malignant diseases. Radiation therapy is one of the fundamental treatments of cancer, and more than 50% of the patients diagnosed with this disease would benefit from that kind of therapy either applied alone or in conjunction with surgery and chemotherapy. Yet, in the developing world, more than half of the number of patients suffering from cancer will not have access to radiotherapy due to the lack of appropriate equipment and sufficiently trained staff with expertise in clinical and medical physics. The Holy See appreciates the work and efforts of the IAEA and its partners in the planning and furthering of cancer-control programmes and encourages the IAEA to continue to pursue and strengthen these eminently important activities. The Programme of Action for Cancer Therapy (PACT), which aims at increasing its capacity to assist Member States in the tremendous task of combating cancer and creating regional centres of excellence for radiotherapy, deserves honourable mention.

9. Allow me to conclude, Mr. President, with the following: by considering nuclear policies from the perspective of the “integral development of the human person” (Declaration on the Right to Development, 1986, pp 5), which implies not only material development but, more importantly, the cultural and moral development of every person and all peoples, the Holy See views, and invites others to view, the International Atomic Energy Agency’s contribution to “peace, health and prosperity”.

Thank you, Mr. President!