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“We need a respectful, mutual listening, free of ideology and predetermined agendas.” Pope Francis, Let us Dream, December 2020

Catholic peace group calls for nuclear arms service to be scrapped

An international Catholic peace movement has called for cancellation of a ceremony at Westminster Abbey celebrating Britain’s nuclear weapons system.

Westminster Abbey is due to host a National Service of Thanksgiving to mark 50 years of British nuclear weapons on patrol at sea despite the fact that the General Synod of the Church of England has already called on the government to back the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.

The Abbey described it as ‘a service to recognise the commitment of the Royal Navy to effective peace-keeping through the deterrent over the past 50 years and to pray for peace throughout the world’, however campaigners say it will send out a dangerous message to the world about the country’s attitude towards arms.

“Pax Christi does not regard the continuing possession of nuclear weapons by the UK as an achievement to be ‘marked’,” Theresa Alessandro, director of Pax Christi, told The Catholic Universe.

“We echo the words of Pope Francis regarding nuclear weapons: ‘The threat of their use as well as their very possession is to be firmly condemned’. Rather than the tired narrative that nuclear weapons are a necessary deterrent, we agree with Pope Francis that they ‘exist in the service of a mentality of fear that affects not only the parties in conflict but the entire human race’. The tense, fragile relationships between nuclear-weapons possessing nations and their unbalanced relationships with others must not be described as peace.”

Pax Christi is now calling for the Service of Thanksgiving to either be cancelled or changed to a Service of Repentance.

“We call for the service at Westminster Abbey to be cancelled. Or might it be transformed into a Service of Repentance – marking the 50 long years in which our country has been unable to turn away from nuclear weapons? And Lamentation – that of all the valuable work which needs doing in our world, we instead train good men and women to carry the threat of indiscriminate mass destruction in secret, under the seas, in our name,” said Ms Alessandro.

“Pax Christi calls on our government to sign the UN Treaty and to cancel the renewal of Trident,” she added.

Meanwhile, the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) said it is ‘horrified’ at the Royal Navy’s plan to host the service in the Abbey.

‘It’s morally repugnant and sends out a terrible message to the world about our country. It says that here in Britain we celebrate weapons – in a place of worship – that can kill millions of people,’ the group said.

Picture: 2015 archive photo of HMS Vanguard, one of the UK’s nuclear deterrent V-Class submarines, sitting docked at Devonport, Plymouth. (Ben Birchall/PA).