New Mexico’s Archbishop Cantú Helps Lead Vatican Charge for Nuclear Weapons Abolition

On Thursday morning, 9:30 EST/7:30 MT, Sept. 24 Pope Francis will  address both houses of the U.S. Congress, viewable by webcast on C-SPAN. The next morning at 8:30 am EST/6:30 MT he addresses at the United Nations in New York City, viewable on the UN web site
There is good reason to think that the Pope might address the need for nuclear weapons abolition. In December 2014 the Vatican presented a paper entitled “Nuclear Weapons: Time for Abolition” at the conference on “Humanitarian Impacts of Nuclear Weapons” held by the Austrian government in Vienna. In it, the Vatican declared that while the possession of nuclear weapons could be justified for the sake of “deterrence” during the Cold War that is no longer true. It further stated, “Now is the time to affirm not only the immorality of the use of nuclear weapons, but the immorality of their possession, thereby clearing the road to nuclear abolition.”


I met with the Holy See’s permanent delegation to the United Nations during the first week of the NonProliferation Treaty Review Conference this last May 2015. To my surprise I was told that Archbishop Oscar Cantú of Las Cruces, NM, chair of the Vatican’s Committee on International Justice and Peace, is playing a prominent role in the Catholic Church’s accelerating push for nuclear weapons abolition. You can see a number of papers that he has written on nuclear weapons at

For example, in anticipation of the Pope’s speech to Congress, Archbishop Cantú wrote The Pope and the Bomb: New Nuclear Dangers and Moral Dilemmas
September 17, 2015
In a background paper on nuclear weapons Pope Francis is quoted as saying:
“A world without nuclear weapons” is a goal shared by all nations and echoed by world leaders, as well as the aspiration of millions of men and women. The future and the survival of the human family hinges on moving beyond this ideal and ensuring that it becomes a reality.         — Pope Francis, December 7, 2014″

Archbishop Cantú was at a mass at the Nagasaki Cathedral in Japan this August, 9, 2015, the 70th anniversary of the atomic bombing. See his
Homily on Peace and a World without Nuclear Weapons for a Mass at Urakami Cathedral in Nagasaki, Japan
August 9, 2015

In his homily Archbishop Cantú declares:

“Pope Francis, when asked in November 2014 about what happened in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, said, “… humanity has not learnt its lesson … Humans did this and discovered nuclear energy which has many positive uses, but they also used it to destroy creation, humanity.”

The bishops of the United States join in solidarity with the Church in Japan in advocating for global nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament in the face of the tragedies that occurred here when atomic bombs struck.  In our 1983 pastoral letter on The Challenge of Peace, the U.S. bishops committed themselves to shaping “the climate of opinion which will make it possible for our country to express profound sorrow over the atomic bombing in 1945. Without that sorrow, there is no possibility of finding a way to repudiate future use of nuclear weapons….”  – End of quote –

Also, see Letter to Secretary of State Kerry on the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons
Bishop Oscar Cantú, May 12, 2015
In it he writes:
The United States and other nuclear weapons possessing states bear a particular responsibility for nuclear disarmament and despite the  success of the New START Treaty in further reducing the numbers of  weapons, there has not been enough progress.  We urge bold and concrete commitments to accelerate verifiable nuclear disarmament, including taking weapons off “launch on warning” status to prevent a catastrophic accident, deeper cuts in nuclear arsenals, ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty to bring it into force, serious negotiations on a fissile material cut-off treaty and other prudent measures.

As the Holy See recently said:  “Lack of concrete and effective nuclear disarmament will lead sooner or later to real risks of nuclear proliferation.”  We share the view that ‘[t]he erosion of the credibility of the NPT could have catastrophic consequences for all countries and for the future of humanity as a whole.”  Please be assured of our prayers as you work for a world without nuclear weapons.

Sincerely yours,
Most Reverend Oscar Cantú
Bishop of Las Cruces
Chair, Committee on International Justice and Peace

– End of quote –

Nuclear Watch New Mexico finds it very gratifying to see a New Mexico archbishop helping to lead the Vatican’s charge for nuclear weapons abolition. We will take an intense interest in seeing what position the other New Mexico archbishop, Santa Fe’s newly installed John Wester, might take on nuclear weapons. His diocese includes two of the nation’s three nuclear weapons laboratories, Los Alamos and Sandia. The labs’ main business nowadays is Life Extension Programs that prolong the lives of existing U.S. nuclear weapons for up to 60 years while giving them new military capabilities, despite denials at the highest levels of government. In keeping with New Mexico demographics, the work force at the labs is around  25% Catholic, some of whom may be receptive to the Pope’s call for nuclear weapons abolition.

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