Most Rev. John C. Wester, Archbishop of Santa speaks at a virtual press conference Tuesday morning. Screenshot/Los Alamos Reporter
BY MAIRE O’NEILL
Archbishop John C. Wester early this morning released his pastoral letter “Living in the Light of Christ’s Peace: A Conversation Toward Nuclear Disarmament” and later held a livestreamed press conference to discuss the letter’s contents.
During the press conference Archbishop Wester said for him personally the time is now for his letter because when he came to the Archdiocese of Santa Fe, he saw right away the disparity here and “the challenge we have as New Mexicans”.
“Here is where the nuclear arms race in many ways began – the manufacture of nuclear armaments – and having been in Japan and seeing the devastation that was caused by them. I think there’s that sense and again it’s such an important topic that we really can’t dally,” he said. “The Los Alamos National Labs are beginning already to take in money from the federal government to build these new pit cores for the nuclear bombs and they’re just expanding now and several of the offices have opened up in Santa Fe.”
Archbishop Wester said he felt there was an urgency brought by Pope Francis’s talk in Hiroshima about nuclear weapons and because of the expansion of the work being done at LANL right now.
“I think it’s extremely timely. I think it’s clear that we’re all entering into a new, second arms race that is far more dangerous than the first, really, and with far more devastating consequences. It’s clearly that the machinery for perpetuating this whole nuclear arms race is moving on. Clearly the tensions internationally with Russia, China and other nations, the possibility of terrorist attacks, rogue use of the bombs, – these things are all imminent,” he said.
“It’s one of those things we don’t think about because the nuclear armaments are hidden. They’re all in big bunkers and underground and we don’t see them ever, but they’re there and they’re very real. I think the urgency is clear. We need to initiate the conversation now,” Archbishop Wester said.
In his summary of the pastoral letter, he recalls traveling to Japan and visiting Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 2017.
“It was a somber, sobering experience as I realized that on August 6, 1945, humanity crossed the line into the darkness of the nuclear age. Historically, the Archdiocese of Santa Fe has been part of a peace initiative, one that would help make sure these weapons would never be used again. I believe it is time to rejuvenate that peace work.” he said.
“We need to sustain a serious conversation in New Mexico and across the nation about universal, verifiable nuclear disarmament. We can no longer deny or ignore the dangerous predicament we have created for ourselves with a new nuclear arms race, one that is arguably more dangerous than the past Cold War.,” Archbishop Wester continued. “In the face of increasing threats from Russia, China, and elsewhere, I point out that a nuclear arms race is inherently self-perpetuating, a vicious spiral that prompts progressively destabilizing actions and reactions by all parties, including our own country. We need nuclear arms control, not an escalating nuclear arms race.”
He said the Archdiocese of Santa Fe has a special role to play in advocating for nuclear disarmament given the presence of the Los Alamos and Sandia nuclear weapons laboratories and the nation’s largest repository of nuclear weapons at the Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque.
“At the same time, we need to encourage life-affirming jobs for New Mexicans in cleanup, nonproliferation programs, and addressing climate change. Pope Francis has made clear statements about the immorality of possessing nuclear weapons, moving the Church from past conditional acceptance of ‘deterrence’ to the moral imperative of abolition. Instead of just a few hundred nuclear weapons for just deterrence, we have thousands for nuclear warfighting that could destroy God’s creation on earth. Moreover, we are robbing from the poor and needy with current plans to spend at least $1.7 trillion to “modernize” our nuclear weapons and keep them forever,” Archbishop Wester said.
He noted that the Catholic Church has a long history of speaking out against nuclear weapons.
“The Vatican was the first nation state to sign and ratify the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. As Pope Francis declared, ‘We must never grow weary of working to support the principal international legal instruments of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation, including the Treaty on the prohibition of nuclear weapons’. It is the duty of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe, the birthplace of nuclear weapons, to support that Treaty while working toward universal, verifiable nuclear disarmament,” Archbishop Wester said.
The Archbishop’s press conference may be viewed at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kHS2C1wIBeQ
The pastoral letter in its entirety may be read at: https://archdiosf.org/documents/2022/1/220111_ABW_Pastoral_Letter_LivingintheLightofChristsPeace_Official_a.pdf