FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Washington, D.C. – Following today’s release of “Living in the Light of Christ’s Peace: A Conversation Toward Nuclear Disarmament”, a pastoral letter issued by Archbishop John C. Wester on the urgent need for nuclear disarmament and avoiding a new nuclear arms race, Pax Christi USA wishes to extend its thanks to Archbishop Wester for his prophetic stance and encourage other bishops to join the conversation. Pax Christi USA eagerly anticipated the archbishop’s letter which opens a new chapter in the U.S. Catholic Church’s movement toward the moral imperative of the abolition of nuclear weapons.
“Archbishop John Wester’s call for an end to the arms race and for taking the necessary steps towards full nuclear disarmament comes from the voice of a good shepherd who pastors the place where nuclear weapons were first tested and continue to be developed and stockpiled,” stated Bishop John Stowe, OFM Conv., Bishop-President of Pax Christi USA. “We should all heed his voice and contribute to the process of disarmament through practicing nonviolence in our daily lives and advocating the end of nuclear weapons. In his address to the ambassadors accredited to the Holy See on January 10, the Holy Father re-iterated that even the possession of nuclear weapons is immoral. Archbishop Wester brings this teaching to the U.S. in a significant way.”
“The urgency for this type of bold, unequivocal statement is greater than ever,” stated Bishop Thomas Gumbleton, Pax Christi USA Bishop-President-Emeritus. “Archbishop Wester’s support of the Treaty to Prohibit Nuclear Weapons and its implementation echoes Pope Francis’ charge that the possession of nuclear weapons is itself immoral. This statement raises up the voices of all those who are victimized by the continued manufacturing and stockpiling of these morally offensive weapons – from those who are deprived of the barest necessities of life because of the resources committed to weapons development and maintenance to those who suffer from medical conditions caused by nuclear weapons testing to all those who died at Hiroshima and Nagasaki and live in fear today under the threat of nuclear war. I wholly support this effort.”
Nick Mele, former U.S. diplomat and coordinator of Pax Christi USA’s Nuclear Disarmament Working Group stated that Archbishop Wester’s statement is the first major proclamation of current Catholic teaching on nuclear weapons by a member of the U.S. hierarchy.
“We pray this landmark statement inspires many U.S. bishops and other church leaders to speak out forcefully and condemn nuclear weapons and the accelerating spending on them by the nuclear powers,” Mele stated. “We’re hopeful that Archbishop’s Wester’s words will inspire religious communities across the country to plan and carry out a national campaign to abolish the U.S. nuclear arsenal and reduce overall spending on weapons of mass destruction by our government.”
Ronnie Fellerath-Lowell, Pax Christi USA’s national organizer for the Back from the Brink campaign aimed at preventing nuclear war believes that the new pastoral letter will generate new momentum for Pax Christi groups urging local, city and state governments to pass resolutions calling on the United States government to work toward abolition.
“Pax Christi members have, in coalition with other peace groups, seen some success in getting local and city resolutions passed, but these grassroots efforts will be greatly encouraged by the clear call of Archbishop Wester to follow the nonviolent Jesus and to abolish nuclear weapons,” stated Fellerath-Lowell.
Pax Christi USA plans on promoting and employing Archbishop Wester’s pastoral letter in anticipation of the 25th anniversary in 2023 of a statement on the morality of nuclear deterrence, signed by more than 75 U.S. Catholic bishops in 1998. Those bishops wrote then, “We cannot delay any longer. Nuclear deterrence as a national policy must be condemned as morally abhorrent because it is the excuse and justification for the continued possession and further development of these horrendous weapons.”
Archbishop Wester’s letter today opens that conversation anew, and with it, the possibility for a new moment to engage the promise of nuclear disarmament.
More quotes from Catholic leaders on Archbishop Wester’s pastoral letter:
“We applaud Archbishop Wester in making such a clear and direct message that is both powerful and pastoral. With holy boldness he makes clear that disarmament is necessary in order for true peace to rise up. Let us continue our collective efforts with the momentum of Archbishop Wester’s message to to do as ‘the risen, nonviolent Jesus who calls us to be peacemakers, put down the sword, and love everyone, even the enemies of our nation.’ Let us persistently require our government and Church live out this call as God would have us do.” ~ Charlene Howard, Pax Christi USA National Chair
“It is long past time for the USCCB to officially repeal its’ ‘strictly conditional acceptance of nuclear deterrence.’ It is hopeful to see more bishops like Archbishop Wester and Pax Christi USA’s own Bishop-President, Bishop John Stowe, OFM Conv, shepherds able and willing to exercise their prophetic charism in the cause of peace.” ~ Tom Cordaro, Pax Christi USA Ambassador of Peace, anti-racism trainer, and author of Be Not Afraid: An Alternative to the War on Terror
“I support this pastoral letter against nuclear weapons because the amount of money in the U.S. budget to spend to kill people and destroy God’s creation is evil and it needs to end. Just a small amount of this money could create a better world and we could have the minds that create nuclear weapons free to enhance life and the health of the planet.” ~ Beatrice Parwatikar, Pax Christi USA Ambassador of Peace, anti-racism trainer, and pastoral associate
“I am grateful to Archbishop Wester for his clear and courageous leadership. His pastoral letter echoes so clearly the plea of Pope Francis to end the threat, possession and potentially catastrophic use of nuclear weapons. Nowhere is a paradigm shift toward nonviolence more desperately needed than in freeing the world from the terrifying threat of nuclear weapons.” ~ Marie Dennis, Pax Christi USA Ambassador of Peace, former co-president of Pax Christi International
“We are happy and encouraged to see the pastoral letter that Archbishop Wester has written. We gladly accept his challenge to pray over the Gospel and let it call us to be a church of peacemakers. May we all be open to the conversions needed for peace to come!” ~ Shelley and Jim Douglass, Pax Christi USA Teachers of Peace, theologians and anti-nuclear activists
“Archbishop Wester stands in a long line of Catholic peacemakers–from St. Francis of Assisi, Ben Salmon, Dorothy Day, St. John XXIII and Eileen Egan, to the Berrigans, Archbishop Raymond Hunthausen, Sr. Anne Montgomery, Sr. Ardeth Platte and Pope Francis, calling upon the church and the nation to follow Jesus’ way of peacemaking and nonviolence. Pope Francis has declared that the possession of nuclear weapons is immoral. With the ratification last year of the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), nuclear weapons are now illegal under international law. Archbishop Wester has done a great service by inviting his diocese to prayerfully reflect on these two historic developments and to take action to bring about nuclear abolition. As the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists have placed the Doomsday Clock at 100 seconds to midnight due to the twin dangers of nuclear war and the climate crisis, and as the U.S. proceeds with an estimated $1.7 trillion nuclear modernization program over the next several decades, this pastoral letter could not come at a more opportune time. I pray all U.S. bishops follow Archbishop Wester’s lead and that all Catholics will act to implement the TPNW. ~ Art Laffin, Pax Christi USA Teacher of Peace, Plowshares activist, author of The Risk of the Cross: Living Gospel Nonviolence in the Nuclear Age
“Archbishop Wester is showing the kind of prophetic leadership we all are hoping to see in the Catholic hierarchy. God bless and protect him.” ~ Fr. Joe Nangle, ofm, Pax Christi USA Ambassador of Peace, former director for the Justice and Peace Office for the Conference of Major Superiors of Men
“Archbishop Wester’s pastoral letter urging nuclear disarmament is a prophetic message, reminding us that every life on this planet is precious and worth protecting. These are the messages that need our attention: messages like this, that insist that it’s possible for us to live differently, more courageously, more nonviolently. May this pastoral letter bring us one step closer to the peace on earth that was proclaimed during the Christmas season.” ~ Mary Lou Kownacki, OSB, Pax Christi USA Teacher of Peace, author, and former Executive Director of the Alliance for International Monasticism
“With the publication of his pastoral letter, Archbishop Wester has taken up the mantle of moral leadership, joining Pope Francis and worldwide religious leaders calling for the dismantlement and abolition of nuclear weapons. He echoes the collective cry of Pax Christi Bishops, who in 1998 condemned nuclear deterrence as ‘morally abhorrent’ and called for the world to ‘rid itself of these terrible weapons of mass destruction and the constant threat they pose.’ By owning his responsibility to actively work for nuclear abolition and follow the nonviolent Jesus, he invites all Catholics to do the same.” ~ Nancy Small, Pax Christi USA Ambassador of Peace, former National Coordinator of Pax Christi USA