A Franciscan Plea for Peace
In June 1998 the six leaders of the international Franciscan family issued a joint plea to world leaders calling for further nuclear disarmament. Excerpts follow.
As we enter the Third Millennium, we address this letter to you in the same spirit as St. Francis had when he addressed his "Letter to the Rulers of the People." He wrote out of concern, both for the rulers and for the people. So, too, we write to you with sincere concern for all the nations of the world.
We Franciscans urge you to abolish all nuclear weapons and to commit our resources to the material and spiritual needs of the world community. Unless we do this, the horrendous dangers that threaten the human race are unthinkable....
Inspired by St. Francis of Assisi (1181-1226 A.D.) who wrote to his early followers that they were not to bear arms for any reason, Franciscan men and women throughout the world have continued to advocate peace and to challenge those caught up in the threatening arms race.
The Nuclear Threat Expands
The recent nuclear weapons tests in India and Pakistan make us aware once more how perilous are the threats to peace. A territorial war between these two countries could lead to desperate use of atomic weapons across the border. We are aware that other nations are attempting to develop or purchase nuclear arms. The decrease in the control of the tens of thousands of existing nuclear weapons makes the possibility of nuclear outbreak even more frightening.
It is abundantly clear that no power, neither an individual nation nor the United Nations, can prevent the widening spiral of proliferation, despite the fact that 148 nations have signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. World health professionals insist that the medical requirements of a nuclear exchange are unimaginable and unavailable. The cost in human suffering would be enormous. Yet the fateful day of such an exchange looms closer and closer.
Although there are many signatories to the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, we know that not all countries have signed. Even among those who have signed, the necessary ratification by proper government bodies is by no means certain....
It is striking that India, for example, so long an advocate of the abolition of all nuclear weapons, should be the most recent source of nuclear expansionism. India still insists that it is ready to sign the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty and to join the signers of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty if they see the major nuclear powers clearly moving toward the elimination of all nuclear weapons as required by Article VI of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
Unfortunately, it is obvious that the major powers, while willing to negotiate some reductions in arms, plan to maintain sizable nuclear forces well into the next millennium which provides India, and other countries, with the excuse not to sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CNTB).
People Desire Peace
We genuinely believe that there is an overwhelming desire among the people of the earth to remove the specter of nuclear devastation from the face of the planet. The world’s number one agenda should be how to safely rid the world of the instruments of evil and destruction. We urge all nations, especially the major nuclear powers, to respond positively to the challenge for the abolition of all nuclear weapons....
Again we call for the total abolition of nuclear weapons. The number and disbursement of nuclear weapons throughout the world make their sudden use dangerously imminent.
We also draw attention to the drastic impact that the nuclear weapons industry has on the poor, especially children. It is not only the destruction caused in the event of their use, but we protest the vast amounts of resources invested in research, development and production of these weapons of mass destruction.
Inspired by St. Francis of Assisi, we work for peace, the rights of every human being, especially the most marginalized, as well as the respect for all of creation. In our international gatherings we have reiterated our abhorrence of war and have especially condemned the building, stockpiling, research and the use of nuclear weapons....
Peace and good!
Emanuela De Nunzio, General Minister S.F.O.; Father John Corriveau, Minister General O.F.M.Cap.; Sister Carola Thomann, President F.I.C.-T.O.R.; Father Agostino Gardin, Minister General O.F.M.Conv.; Father Giacomo Bini, Minister General O.F.M.; Father Bonaventure Midili, Minister General T.O.R.
|In Francis’ Words:
To all magistrates and consuls, to all judges and governors all over the world and to everyone else who receives this letter, Brother Francis, your poor worthless servant in the Lord God, sends greetings and peace....
Put away all worry and anxiety and receive the holy Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ fervently in memory of him. See to it that God is held in great reverence among your subjects; every evening, at a signal given by a herald or by some other way, praise and thanks should be given to the Lord God almighty by all the people....
Those who keep a copy of this letter and put its prescriptions into practice can rest assured that they have God’s blessing.
— From "Letter to the Rulers of the People," St. Francis of Assisi