TIME Vatican

Here’s What Not to Do If Pope Francis Calls You Up

Pope Francis attends the weekly general audience in Saint Peter's square at the Vatican on April 22, 2015.
Vandeville Eric—AP Pope Francis attends the weekly general audience in Saint Peter's square at the Vatican on April 22, 2015.

Italian man hung up on the Pope twice, thinking he was a prank caller

(VATICAN CITY) — Hang up on Pope Francis and you might get a hug.

Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano says earlier this week, Francis dialed an ailing Italian man to comfort him. Francis has a habit of calling people who he has heard are suffering and telling them “Hello, I’m Pope Francis” when they answer their phone.

The newspaper said the man, Franco Rabuffi, hung up twice, thinking it was a prankster.

On the third call, he realized it truly was Francis and was speechless. The paper says Francis told Rabuffi he was amused. Rabuffi and his wife were invited to the pope’s public audience Wednesday in St. Peter’s Square, where Francis hugged them and assured them he really did dial the man’s phone.

The paper didn’t specify the man’s illness or age.

TIME Vatican

Pope Francis Calls for Equal Pay for Women and Men

He says gender-based pay disparities are "pure scandal"

Pope Francis expressed support for equal pay for men and women on Wednesday, calling income disparities “pure scandal.”

Speaking during his weekly general audience, Francis asked that Christians “become more demanding” about achieving gender equality, according to the National Catholic Reporter.

“Why is it expected that women must earn less than men?” he asked the crowd at St. Peter’s Square. “No! They have the same rights. The disparity is a pure scandal.”

The Pope emphasized that concern for women’s equality isn’t at odds with concern for declining marriage rates around the world, a shift he said Christians needed to reflect on “with great seriousness.”

“Many consider that the change occurring in these last decades may have been set in motion by women’s emancipation,” he said. But Francis called that idea “an insult” and “a form of chauvinism that always wants to control the woman.”

[NCR]

TIME Vatican

Pope Francis Will Visit Cuba in September

Pope Francis changes his skullcap as he arrives in St. Peter's Square for his weekly general audience, in the Vatican City on April 22, 2015.
Angelo Carconi—EPA Pope Francis changes his skullcap as he arrives in St. Peter's Square for his weekly general audience, in the Vatican City on April 22, 2015.

Francis has been credited with helping the United States and Cuba reach their historic rapprochement

(VATICAN CITY) — The Vatican says Pope Francis will visit Cuba before arriving in the United States in the last week of September.

The Vatican spokesman, Rev. Federico Lombardi, confirmed the Cuba leg to reporters Wednesday. He didn’t provide details or dates.

Francis has been credited with helping the United States and Cuba reach their historic rapprochement by writing to the leaders of both countries and having the Vatican host their delegations for the final negotiations. Francis’ visit to Cuba would be a way for him to push the process forward.

He is scheduled to visit three U.S. cities starting around Sept. 23. He will address Congress and meet with President Barack Obama at the White House, address the U.N. in New York and attend a church rally for families in Philadelphia.

TIME Vatican

Pope Accepts Resignation of Bishop Who Didn’t Report Abuse

Catholic Bishop Charged
Tammy Ljungblad—AP Bishop Robert Finn of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph appears during a bench trial Sept. 6, 2012 at the Jackson County Courthouse in Kansas City, Mo.

Finn pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of failure to report suspected abuse and was sentenced to two years probation in 2012

Correction appended, April 21

(KANSAS CITY, Mo.) — Pope Francis accepted the resignation Tuesday of a U.S. bishop who was convicted of failing to report a suspected child abuser, answering calls by victims to take action against bishops who cover up for pedophile priests.

Bishop Robert Finn, who led the Diocese of Kansas City-St Joseph in Missouri for nearly 10 years, resigned under canon law that allows bishops to resign early for illness or some “grave” reason that makes them unfit for office. But his resignation did not provide a specific reason.

Finn, 62, is 13 years shy of the normal retirement age of 75.

In 2012, Finn was found guilty of one misdemeanor count of failure to report suspected abuse and was sentenced to two years of probation, making him the highest-ranking church official in the U.S. to be convicted of not taking action in response to abuse allegations.

Prosecutors say the diocese did not notify police until six months after concerns were raised in 2011 about the Rev. Shawn Ratigan, whose computers were found to contain hundreds of lewd photos of young girls.

Since the convictions, Finn has faced pressure to resign, including local and national petition drives asking the pope to remove him from the diocese.

The removal was praised by Marie Collins, a prominent member of Francis’ own sex abuse advisory board who had called for Finn to go and demanded that the Vatican hold bishops accountable when they fail to protect children.

“Things are moving slowly, as I have said many times, but they are moving in the right direction!” Collins tweeted.

Francis appointed Archbishop Joseph Naumann, head of the Kansas City, Kansas, diocese, to lead the Missouri diocese until Finn’s successor is named. In a letter to the diocese, Naumann said he prayed “that the coming weeks and months will be a time of grace and healing.” Naumann will retain his duties in Kansas.

Finn, who apologized for Ratigan’s abuse and took measures to make the diocese safer for children, urged followers to pray for his successor.

Sister Jeanne Christensen, a member of the Sisters of Mercy who has been a critic of Finn, said “it’s sad that it took so long.”

“We have suffered a lot under him, and justice has finally been done,” Christensen said. “Let’s just wish him well. And now we need to get moving on to healing the diocese.”

For Kansas City resident Andrew Miller, 23, a lifelong member of Holy Spirit Catholic Church in Lee’s Summit, Missouri, Finn’s resignation will make attending Mass easier. After Finn’s conviction in 2012, he said, he would say, “I’m a Catholic, but_.” Now, “I’m ready to call myself a Catholic again.”

“Why would I put money in a collection plate to pay for lawyers to defend sex offenders?” he said, adding that next time he attends Mass, he might contribute “in celebration of a new bishop.”

Rebecca Randles, the attorney who represented the plaintiffs in several abuse lawsuits that have cost the dioceses millions of dollars, said Finn’s resignation was an important step for abuse victims and the diocese.

“For survivors, there is a sense that as long as Finn was in charge, there would be no way they would have had closure on their own experience. He was a symbol bearer,” she said. “And this kind of abuse ripples across all the Catholic faithful.”

One of Finn’s strongest advocates, Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League, said Tuesday that Finn had been a target of elements of the Catholic church who did not like the bishop’s strict adherence to Catholic teachings.

“He’s a good man,” Donohue said. “No one called his office and complained specifically that their child was being abused. If he didn’t give a damn, he could have ignored it completely and told everyone in his office to ignore it. He didn’t. He called the authorities. The way he’s been treated is simply not fair.”

No U.S. bishop has been forcibly removed for covering up for guilty clergy. Technically speaking, Finn was not removed — he offered to resign, in the same way that Boston’s Cardinal Bernard Law did in 2002 after the clergy sex abuse scandal exploded in his archdiocese.

Law had not been convicted of a crime, as Finn was, and the failure of the Vatican to remove Finn for three years after his conviction fueled victims’ complaints that bishops were continuing to enjoy protections even under Francis’ “zero tolerance” pledge.

In a statement, Anne Barrett Doyle, co-director of the online abuse resource BishopAccountability.org, said Finn’s resignation was a welcome step but called on Francis to publicly state that he was removed for mismanaging the Ratigan case and failing to protect children.

She noted that bishops had been allowed to resign under the previous two popes, but that the Vatican has never publicly linked their resignations to mishandling abuse cases.

“We urge Pope Francis to issue such a statement immediately. That would be unprecedented,” she said. “And it would send a bracing message to bishops and religious superiors worldwide that a new era has begun.”

___

Winfield reported from Vatican City. Associated Press writer Hannah Cushman in Chicago contributed to this report.

Correction: The original version of this story, using information from the Associated Press, incorrectly described the outcome of Bishop Robert Finn’s case. He was convicted of failing to report abuse.

TIME Vatican

Vatican to Host Summit on Climate Change

Pope Francis leads general audience in Vatican City
Baris Seckin—Anadolu Agency/Getty Images Pope Francis arrives at St. Peter's square on April 15, 2014 to lead his weekly general audience in Vatican City, Vatican on April 15, 2015.

The move is part of Pope Francis's environmental strategy

The Vatican will host a summit on climate change and sustainability efforts later this month, officials announced on Tuesday.

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon will give the opening address of the “Protect the Earth, Dignify Humanity” event, and faith and science leaders will give speeches and participate in panels. The goal of the summit is to highlight “the intrinsic connection between respect for the environment and respect for people—especially the poor, the excluded, victims of human trafficking and modern slavery, children, and future generations,” according to the Vatican’s website.

The summit is part of a larger effort by Pope Francis to bring the Catholic Church into the conversation about sustainability and the environment. The Holy See will write a papal letter to bishops this summer about the Vatican’s position on climate change—a fitting mission for a Pope whose namesake, Francis of Assisi, is the patron saint of the environment.

TIME Vatican

Vatican Unexpectedly Ends Overhaul of U.S. Nun Group

Pope Francis in the pontiff's studio at the Vatican on April 10, 2015.
Tony Gentile—Reuters Pope Francis in the pontiff's studio at the Vatican on April 10, 2015.

The Vatican said Thursday it had accepted a final report on its overhaul

(VATICAN CITY)—The Vatican on Thursday unexpectedly ended its controversial takeover of the main umbrella group of U.S. nuns, signaling a major shift in tone and treatment of U.S. sisters under the social justice-minded Pope Francis.

The Vatican said it had accepted a final report on its overhaul of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious and declared that the “implementation of the mandate has been accomplished.”

When the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith took over the LCWR in 2012, it accused the group of taking positions that undermined Catholic teaching on the priesthood and homosexuality while promoting “certain radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith.”

It envisioned a five-year overhaul to fix a “grave” doctrinal crisis, fueled by concerns among U.S. conservatives that the group had strayed from church teaching by not focusing enough on issues like abortion and euthanasia. The Vatican appointed a bishop to oversee rewriting the statutes of the LCWR, which represents 80 percent of the 57,000 Roman Catholic nuns in the U.S., reviewing all its plans and programs — including approving speakers — and ensuring the organization properly followed Catholic prayer and ritual.

In a final joint report, the congregation and the LCWR said the group’s new statutes show its focus on Christ and being faithful to church teaching. It said an advisory committee would be created to ensure manuscripts in LCWR publications are doctrinally sound. It said speakers at LCWR events must use the “ecclesial language of faith” in their remarks and said there was a revised process for selecting award winners.

“Alleluia!” tweeted Sister Mary Ann Hinsdale, a theologian at Boston College and member of the Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. “LCWR investigation by CDF is over!”

The Vatican takeover, combined with a separate Vatican investigation into the quality of life of U.S. nuns, had deeply wounded the U.S. sisters who oversee the lion’s share of the Catholic Church’s social programs, running schools, hospitals, homeless shelters and soup kitchens. The crackdown resulted in a remarkable outpouring of popular support for their work and fueled allegations of the church’s heavy-handed, misogynistic treatment of women.

In December, the Vatican’s quality of life investigation ended with sweeping praise for the sisters for their selfless work caring for the poor. Thursday’s conclusion of the doctrinal assessment signaled a similar positive conclusion.

Christopher Bellitto, a church historian at Kean University in New Jersey, said the announcement Thursday was “a complete vindication” of the sisters’ group and American nuns in general.

“Anything coming out of the Vatican this morning is nothing other than a fig leaf because they can’t say ‘oops’ in Latin,” Bellitto said.

After presenting the final report to the congregation’s prefect, Cardinal Gerhard Mueller, a delegation of LCWR officials met with Francis and discussed his “Joy of the Gospel” apostolic exhortation, which lays out much of his vision of a church that is merciful and looks out for the poorest. While insisting on a message of mercy over morals, Francis has also frequently dismissed legalistic and theological arguments that he says can impede the church’s evangelizing mission.

“Our conversation allowed us to personally thank Pope Francis for providing leadership and a vision that has captivated our hearts and emboldened us as in our own mission and service to the church,” the LCWR said in a statement. “We were also deeply heartened by Pope Francis’ expression of appreciation for the witness given by Catholic sisters through our lives and ministry and will bring that message back to our members.”

TIME Vatican

Pope Francis’ Old iPad Sold for $30,500 at Auction

"May you do something good with it," the Pope said

An iPad that once belonged to Pope Francis sold for $30,500 at an auction benefiting a school in Uruguay on Tuesday.

Despite the steep going price, school officials said they repeatedly failed to sell the Apple device through famed auction houses Christie’s and Sotheby’s before turning to local house Castells, NBC News reports.

The iPad is inscribed with the message “His Holiness Francisco. Servizio Internet Vatican, March 2013″ and includes a certificate signed by Fabian Pedacchio Leaniz, the Pope’s secretary.

Uruguayan priest Gonzalo Aemilius, who donated the iPad to the Francisco de Paysandu high school, said that Pope Francis told him, “May you do something good with it,” when he handed it over.

[NBC News]

TIME Vatican

Pope Francis Says Church Must Listen to Women

Pope Francis blesses the faithful during his weekly general audience at the Vatican on April 15, 2015.
Vincenzo Pinto—AFP/Getty Images Pope Francis blesses the faithful during his weekly general audience at the Vatican on April 15, 2015.

Pope Francis said at his weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square that the difference between men and women was "not for opposition or subordination, but for communion and creation"

Pope Francis believes “more weight and more authority must be given to women,” both in the Church and in society, he said Wednesday.

Speaking at his weekly general audience in St. Peter’s Square, the Pope stressed the need for women to not only be heard but also given a “recognized authority.”

He added that this reflected the way Jesus treated women and encouraged people to work “with more creativity and boldness” toward giving women the recognition they deserve.

“We have not yet understood in depth what things the feminine genius can give us, that woman can give to society and also to us. Perhaps to see things with different eyes that complements the thoughts of men,” he said.

The 78-year old Pope also touched upon questions of gender in modern society, saying that gender theory “aims to erase sexual difference” and that the removal of the difference is “the problem, not the solution.” Instead, he said men and women are meant to be complementary and he encouraged them to “treat each other with respect and cooperate with friendship.”

TIME Vatican

Pope Calls Armenian Slaughter ‘1st Genocide of 20th Century’

Pope Francis leads an Armenian-Rite Mass marking 100 years since the mass killings of Armenians under the Ottoman Empire at St. Peter's basilica in Vatican, on April 12, 2015.
Andreas Solaros—AFP/Getty Images Pope Francis leads an Armenian-Rite Mass marking 100 years since the mass killings of Armenians under the Ottoman Empire at St. Peter's basilica in Vatican, on April 12, 2015.

Turkey later summoned Vatican envoy

(VATICAN CITY) — Pope Francis sparked a diplomatic incident with Turkey on Sunday by calling the slaughter of Armenians by Ottoman Turks “the first genocide of the 20th century” and urging the international community to recognize it as such.

Francis, who has close ties to the Armenian community from his days in Argentina, defended his pronouncement by saying it was his duty to honor the memory of the innocent men, women and children who were “senselessly” murdered by Ottoman Turks 100 years ago this month.

“Concealing or denying evil is like allowing a wound to keep bleeding without bandaging it,” he said at the start of a Mass in the Armenian Catholic rite in St. Peter’s Basilica honoring the centenary.

In a subsequent message directed to all Armenians, Francis called on all heads of state and international organizations to recognize the truth of what transpired and oppose such crimes “without ceding to ambiguity or compromise.”

Turkey, which has long denied a genocide took place, immediately summoned the Vatican ambassador to express its displeasure, a Foreign Ministry spokesman in Ankara said on customary condition of anonymity.

Historians estimate that up to 1.5 million Armenians were killed by Ottoman Turks around the time of World War I, an event widely viewed by scholars as the first genocide of the 20th century.

Turkey, however, has insisted that the toll has been inflated, and that those killed were victims of civil war and unrest, not genocide. It has fiercely lobbied to prevent countries, including the Holy See, from officially recognizing the Armenian massacre as genocide.

Turkey’s embassy to the Holy See canceled a planned news conference for Sunday, presumably after learning that the pope would utter the word “genocide” over its objections.

Francis’ words had immediate effect in St. Peters, bolstering the head of the Armenian Apostolic Church, Aram I, to thank Francis for his clear condemnation and recall that “genocide” is a crime against humanity that requires reparation.

“International law spells out clearly that condemnation, recognition and reparation of a genocide are closely interconnected,” Aram said in English at the end of the Mass to applause from the pews.

Speaking as if he were at a political rally, Aram said the Armenian cause is a cause of justice, and that justice is a gift of God. “Therefore, the violation of justice is a sin against God,” he said.

The pope’s declaration prompted mixed reactions in the streets in Istanbul. Some said they supported it, but others did not agree.

“I don’t support the word genocide being used by a great religious figure who has many followers,” said Mucahit Yucedal, 25. “Genocide is a serious allegation.”

Several European countries recognize the massacres as genocide, though Italy and the United States, for example, have avoided using the term officially given the importance they place on Turkey as an ally.

The Holy See, too, places great importance in its relationship with the moderate Muslim nation, especially as it demands Muslim leaders condemn the slaughter of Christians by Muslim extremists in neighboring Iraq and Syria.

But Francis’ willingness to rile Ankara with his words showed once again that he has few qualms about taking diplomatic risks for issues close to his heart. He took a similar risk by inviting the Israeli and Palestinian presidents to pray together for peace at the Vatican — a summit that was followed by the outbreak of fighting in the Gaza Strip.

Francis is not the first pope to call the massacre a genocide. In his remarks, Francis cited a 2001 declaration signed by St. John Paul II and the Armenian church leader, Karenkin II, which said the deaths were considered “the first genocide of the 20th century.”

But the context of Francis’ pronunciation was significant: He uttered the words during an Armenian rite Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica marking the 100th anniversary of the slaughter, alongside the Armenian Catholic patriarch, Nerses Bedros XIX Tarmouni, Armenian Christian church leaders and Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan, who sat in a place of honor in the basilica.

The definition of genocide has long been contentious. The United Nations in 1948 defined genocide as killing and other acts intended to destroy a national, ethnic, racial or religious group, but many dispute which mass killings should be called genocide.

In his remarks Sunday, Francis said the Armenian slaughter was the first of three “massive and unprecedented” genocides last century that was followed by the Holocaust and Stalinism. He said other mass killings had followed, including in Cambodia, Rwanda, Burundi and Bosnia.

“It seems that the human family has refused to learn from its mistakes caused by the law of terror, so that today too there are those who attempt to eliminate others with the help of a few and with the complicit silence of others who simply stand by,” he said.

Francis has frequently denounced the “complicit silence” of the world community in the face of the modern-day slaughter of Christians and other religious minorities by Islamic extremists.

During Sunday’s Mass, Francis also honored the Armenian community at the start of the Mass by pronouncing a 10th-century Armenian mystic, St. Gregory of Narek, a doctor of the church. Only 35 people have been given the title, which is reserved for those whose writings have greatly served the universal church.

The Mass was rich in traditional Armenian music, with haunting hymns used at key points. Children dressed in traditional costumes presented the gifts at the altar, which was bathed in a cloud of incense.

___

AP writers Desmond Butler and Ayse Wieting in Istanbul contributed to this report.

TIME Pope Francis

Pope Francis’ Latest Mission: Stopping Nuclear Weapons

Pope Francis attends a private audience with President of Slovakia Andrej Kiska at the Apostolic Palace in Vatican City, Vatican, on April 9, 2015.
Getty Images Pope Francis attends a private audience with President of Slovakia Andrej Kiska at the Apostolic Palace in Vatican City, Vatican, on April 9, 2015.

The U.S. State Department is revving up its efforts to work with the Holy See

The Vatican has long opposed nuclear weapons, but Pope Francis is making the cause one of the top diplomatic priorities of his two-year-old papacy.

In December, the Vatican submitted a paper calling for total nuclear disarmament to the Vienna Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons. In January, Pope Francis touted nuclear disarmament as a major goal alongside climate change in his speech to the Vatican’s diplomatic corps. And on Easter Sunday, he publicly prayed that the prospective multi-nation deal to halt Iran’s nuclear weapons program would be “a definitive step toward a more secure and fraternal world.”

Many observers expect the Pope to raise the topic in his speech to the United Nations in September, especially as that event also commemorates the 50th anniversary of Pope Paul VI’s historic U.N. speech calling for “never again war, never again war.”

“Pope Francis has recently pushed the moral argument against nuclear weapons to a new level, not only against their use but also against their possession,” Archbishop Bernedito Auza, the Holy See’s Ambassador to the U.N., says. “Today there is no more argument, not even the argument of deterrence used during the Cold War, that could ‘minimally morally justify’ the possession of nuclear weapons. The ‘peace of a sort’ that is supposed to justify nuclear deterrence is specious and illusory.”

The Vatican push on nuclear weapons comes as the United States is in the final stages of negotiating a deal with Iran and as 190 parties that have supported the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty prepare for its five-year review. The upcoming NPT RevCon, as the U.N. treaty review conference is called, is the first NPT review during the Francis papacy, and Francis’ voice is already adding moral and political weight to the conversation. The Holy See, a party to the Treaty, has opposed the possession and use of nuclear weapons since the beginning of the nuclear age.

The Holy See is “very concerned,” Auza adds, about nuclear-capable states’ commitment to disarmament, arguing that the central promise of the treaty remains unfulfilled. “The fact that nuclear-possessing States not only have not dismantled their nuclear arsenals but are modernizing them lies at the heart of nuclear proliferation,” he says. “It perpetuates the ‘injustice’ in the NPT regime, which was supposed to be temporary while nuclear disarmament was in progress…. how could we reasonably convince the pre-NPT non-nuclear countries not to acquire or develop nuclear arms capabilities? Now, the real and present danger that non-state actors, like terrorist and extremist organizations, could acquire nuclear weapons ‘in the black market’ and ‘not-so-black market,’ ‘in the back alleys’ and ‘not-so-back alleys’ should terrify us all.”

On Thursday, two events on opposite sides of the planet signaled Pope Francis’ diplomatic reach ahead of the NPT review. In New York at the United Nations’ headquarters, the Holy See’s Mission to the U.N. and the Global Security Institute hosted a conference of diplomats and interfaith partners to promote the abolition of nuclear weapons. At the Vatican, a United States diplomatic delegation was courting Catholic Church leaders on President Obama’s commitment to nuclear disarmament.

Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Rose Gottemoeller has picked up on the Vatican’s keen interest in nuclear disarmament and has made it a priority to engage the Holy See. Gottemoeller first visited the Vatican in January to discuss arms control and nonproliferation issues with several counterparts. In late March, the State Department invited the Holy See to participate as an observer in its new disarmament verification initiative, the International Partnership for Nuclear Disarmament Verification. This week, Gottemoeller returned to the Vatican with Madelyn Creedon, the Department of Energy’s principal deputy administrator for the National Nuclear Security Administration, for a two-day diplomatic visit.

Gottemoeller’s efforts have centered on briefing the Vatican on the United States’ disarmament agenda. She has been working to reach highest-level counterparts, as well as technical experts and non-governmental experts. “President Obama from the very beginning of his term in office has been very clear that his goal is to proceed with nuclear disarmament,” she says. “People think sometimes that that is just a kind of propaganda slogan out there without a lot of ‘there’ there, so I wanted to make sure that our Vatican counterparts knew the degree to which the President’s Prague initiative has become substantively a very significant part of our national policy.”

The United States knows the political capital Pope Francis holds when it comes to national and international decision-making. Most notably, the White House credited Francis for his role in brokering the U.S.-Cuba deal in December. “I think there is a huge moral impact of the Vatican on issues that relate to nuclear weapons deterrence and the disarmament agenda overall,” Gottemoeller says. “I see it is as a confluence of interest in a very positive sense. … You can’t just wave a magic wand and make nuclear weapons go away. It takes hard work and it takes a lot of very practical steps, but we can get there, and that is the President’s message. I just hope that we will be met by patience from the community trying to work on these issues.”

For Francis, nuclear disarmament—like most everything—must be viewed from the position of the poor instead of the position of the powerful. Inequality and nuclear power are interwoven. “Spending on nuclear weapons squanders the wealth of nations,” Pope Francis wrote to the Vienna Humanitarian Conference in December. “To prioritize such spending is a mistake and a misallocation of resources which would be far better invested in the areas of integral human development, education, health and the fight against extreme poverty. When these resources are squandered, the poor and the weak living on the margins of society pay the price.”

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has also been deepening its theological and political attention to disarmament. Bishop Oscar Cantú of Las Cruces, New Mexico, chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on International Justice and Peace, spoke at the Holy See’s U.N. panel. During the NPT RevCon, the USCCB plans to sponsor an event with the Kroc Institute on evolving Catholic perspectives from nuclear deterrence to disarmament. Stephen Colecchi, director of the USCCB’s Office of International Justice and Peace, says that the USCCB is trying to move the Holy See’s moral discussion forward in the U.S.—the USCCB had a close relationship with the Administration during the time of the New START Treaty, and has continued the dialogue with Gottemoeller, who is Catholic. “We certainly urge the United States to work with Russia and we have been urging them to separate the issue of the day, which is Ukraine, from the issue of the decades, which is nuclear disarmament,” Colecchi says. “Deterrence is even less stable in a multipolar world. We might ask, Are nations, including our own, serious about nuclear disarmament if they are modernizing nuclear weapons systems?”

After a period of denuclearization in the wake of the fall of the Soviet Union, several states in the developing world went nuclear and events recently have further undermined the NPT. U.N. Ambassador Libran Cabactulan of the Philippines—who was the president of the previous NPT RevCon—flew in from Manila to speak at the Holy See’s event at the U.N. on Thursday. “Nothing has been achieved. Nothing much,” Cabactulan told the U.N. gathering, describing the progress of disarmament in the last five years. “What perhaps I achieved, that was calling more on temporal power, and maybe I failed, because in the order of things it’s the tally sheet, what has been done. And that is why I am gratified…to have spiritual leaders.”

Ambassador Antonio Patriota, permanent representative of Brazil to the United Nations, believes that Francis’ position will resonate during the NPT review conference. “He himself coming from South America, we feel that he has a very deep understanding of the challenges posed by inequality,” Patriota says. “His words carry quite a bit of political weight. It is a powerful message from man of high moral standing in a time when leadership is scarce.”

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