The Italian institutional sphere, always talkative when it comes to the Pope, is now silent as the grave about Francis’ words from Nov. 24 in Hiroshima and Nagasaki: “The use of atomic energy for purposes of war is immoral, just as the possession of atomic weapons is immoral.”
These are embarrassing words for our top institutional figures, who, just like the previous ones, are responsible for the fact that Italy, a non-nuclear country, nonetheless hosts—and is prepared to use—US nuclear weapons. Italy is violating the Non-Proliferation Treaty it ratified, which prohibits non-nuclear states from receiving nuclear weapons and from having direct or indirect control over them.
This is an even more grave responsibility, since Italy, as a NATO member, has refused to adhere to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons approved by the General Assembly of the UN by a large majority, which commits the signatory states not to produce or possess nuclear weapons, not to use or threaten to use them and not to transfer or receive them directly or indirectly, with the aim of their total elimination.
Also embarrassing for our ruling class is the question posed by Pope Francis at Hiroshima: “How can we speak of peace even as we build terrifying new weapons of war?”
In Italy, according to current estimates, the number of nuclear bombs is no less than 70, all of them of the B61 model, but the newer and deadlier US B61-12 nuclear bombs are about to be deployed on Italian territory in place of the current B61s (in unknown numbers at this point). The B61-12 has a nuclear warhead with four selectable power options, so that the power of the explosion is chosen at launch according to the target to be hit. Unlike the B61, which is dropped vertically onto the target, the B61-12 is launched remotely and guided by a satellite system. It also has the ability to penetrate the subsoil, even through reinforced concrete, exploding deep underground to destroy the bunkers of command centers and underground structures, aiming to “decapitate” the enemy country in a nuclear first strike.
No less embarrassing is the Pope’s other question: “How can we propose peace if we constantly invoke the threat of nuclear war as a legitimate recourse for the resolution of conflicts?” Italy, as a member of NATO, has endorsed Trump’s decision to cancel the INF Treaty signed in 1987 by Presidents Gorbachev and Reagan, which had made it possible to eliminate all the intermediate-range ground-based nuclear missiles deployed in Europe, including those installed in Comiso. The US has developed new ground-based intermediate range nuclear missiles, both cruise and ballistic (the latter capable of hitting targets within minutes of launch), which are to be deployed in Europe—and certainly also in Italy—against Russia, and in Asia against China. Russia has warned that, if these weapons are deployed in Europe, it will aim its own nuclear missiles at the territories on which they will be installed.
Worldwide, the nuclear powers have a total of about 15,000 nuclear warheads. More than 90% of the nuclear warheads belong to the United States and Russia: each of the two countries has about 7,000. The other countries in possession of nuclear warheads are France (300), China (270), Great Britain (215), Pakistan (120-130), India (110-120), Israel (80) and North Korea (10-20). Five other countries—Italy, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands and Turkey—have a total of around 150 US nuclear warheads deployed on their territory. However, the arms race is now being played out not according to quantity, but quality: the crucial aspects are the type of launch platforms and on the offensive capabilities of the nuclear warheads.
When Pope Francis affirms that the use of nuclear energy for war purposes is “a crime not only against the dignity of human beings but against any possible future for our common home,” one which endangers the future of the Earth, this is the point where those who are engaged in the defense of the environment should not be silent. Nuclear war is the most serious threat to the living environment on the planet, and the objective of the complete elimination of atomic bombs is a priority.
Will the warning sounded by Pope Francis have an echo in the Church and among Catholics—who in Japan are on the front lines against any rearmament and reform of the Peace Constitution?