Archbishop’s pastoral letter invites dialogue toward nuclear disarmament via The Catholic Sun

By Dennis Sadowski, Catholic News Service

CLEVELAND (CNS) — In a new pastoral letter, Archbishop John C. Wester of Santa Fe, New Mexico, urges the local community and the world to join “a renewed commitment to the cause of peace” with the goal of eliminating all global nuclear weapons arsenals.

The document, “Living in the Light of Christ’s Peace: A Conversation Toward Nuclear Disarmament,” challenges conventional political thinking that possessing nuclear weapons serves as a deterrence to potential attacks from other nuclear powers.

“We can no longer deny or ignore the extremely dangerous predicament of our human family. We are in a new nuclear arms race far more dangerous than the first,” Archbishop Wester said during an online news conference to introduce the pastoral letter Jan. 11.

He explained that he issued the document because two of the country’s three nuclear weapons research facilities — the Sandia and Los Alamos national laboratories — and the largest U.S. repository of nuclear armaments located at Kirtland Air Force Base in nearby Albuquerque are within the archdiocese.


Archbishop Wester also said the pastoral letter is not meant to criticize those who work in the nuclear weapons industry or the military, but that it is an invitation to begin conversations that can lead to the abolishment of such weapons in order to protect humanity and the Earth.


He expressed concern for what he said was economic disparity between those in the weapons industry and New Mexicans, largely people of color.

By addressing such concerns and ensuring that people working in the weapons industry can transition to other well-paying jobs that protect the environment and carefully store dangerous radioactive waste, true justice can be realized, he said.


Archbishop Wester opens with his reflections while visiting Hiroshima with other bishops in 2017 and seeing the oft-depicted dome in the Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall that remains as a memorial to tens of thousands who died in the Aug. 6, 1945, bombing of the city.

The visit, he explains, led to thinking that such destruction and loss of life should never occur again and that the Santa Fe Archdiocese must play a role in bringing the arms race to an end.


The release of the pastoral letter follows Archbishop Wester’s unveiling Dec. 19 of a sign outside of the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Santa Fe depicting Pope Francis and a quote the pope offered during a visit to Hiroshima in November 2019: “The possession of nuclear arms is immoral.”

The sign is across the street from an office building where the Los Alamos National Laboratory opened a small office.

Read Archbishop Wester’s pastoral letter.

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