by Ronnie Fellerath-Lowell
Pax Christi USA Nuclear Disarmament Organizer
Tuesday, January 18th was cold and windy in Washington, D.C. but a Pax Christi USA delegation joined with other peace organizations in visiting more than 40 embassies of countries who have signed and ratified the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW). This week marks the first anniversary of the TPNW entering into force. The goal was to celebrate the 59 countries that have ratified the treaty, which makes all nuclear weapons, including research and testing, internationally illegal.
The Pax Christi USA delegation had the honor of visiting the Vatican Embassy (the first State to ratify the TPNW) to present a certificate of appreciation and a bouquet of yellow roses. Monsignor John Paul Pedrera, representing the Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop Christophe Pierre, welcomed us and invited us in. During a 45 minute visit, the delegation had the opportunity to express our appreciation of Pope Francis’ leadership on nuclear disarmament and support for the treaty, while also delving into Archbishop John Wester’s new pastoral letter on nuclear disarmament.
Msgr. Pedrera, who joined the Vatican Embassy staff recently, asked many astute questions about the situation in the United States. We had the opportunity to explain the Back from the Brink movement, a grassroots effort to have local and state governments pass resolutions urging the federal government to take concrete steps toward nuclear weapons abolition. Msgr. Pedrera also informed the group that he was aware of the good work of Pax Christi USA and Pax Christi International and that he is on Pax Christi USA’s email list. He stated that he knew work for nuclear disarmament in the United States was a “work of patience” and that it was a “long-term commitment” to bring countries around to recognizing the promise of peace in the abolition of nuclear weapons.
The conversation covered many topics including efforts to address military spending and the military budget, immigration and the resettlement of Afghan refugees, and the Vatican’s work with Pax Christi on nonviolence. Members of the Pax Christi USA delegation included Pax Christi USA National Council member Josephine Garnem; Pax Christi USA nuclear disarmament organizer Ronnie Fellerath-Lowell; Pax Christi Metro DC-Baltimore leader Mary Liepold; nuclear disarmament activist Sr. Carol Gilbert, OP; and Johnny Zokovitch, Pax Christi USA Executive Director. We were joined at the Vatican by Andrea Norouzi of Prevent Nuclear War MD, one of the key organizers of the effort.
Our delegation additionally visited two other embassies. At the Embassy of Lesotho, we were greeted by Counsellor Masopha Kao, presented a certificate of appreciation, and engaged in a short conversation. At the Embassy of Paraguay, we were delighted that Second Secretary Lucas Strubing was quite familiar with the TPNW, sharing the process by which Paraguay supported and signed the treaty, and saying that Paraguay was one of the original ratifiers (January 2020).