It is exciting to see a faith leader pushing boldly on issues of peace and justice.
Like many people, I am reading the Pope's encyclical on climate change and inequality, On Care for Our Common Home ("Laudato Si").
I'll surely write specifically about Laudato Si when I've had more time to think about it -- it consists of 246 numbered paragraphs, and each one can stand alone as an important reflection on the intertwined issues of faith, stewardship, compassion, and justice.
I can't help thinking that there is almost too much in Laudato Si for Pope Francis to convey on his US visit. I keep wondering, "What's the single most important message?"
As an answer to that question, I thought back to a statement that the Pope made prior to the publication of Laudato Si, a statement on the need for nuclear disarmament from December, 2014.
The Pope issued a message to the Vienna conference on the Humanitarian Consequences of Nuclear Weapons. that is a clear call for nuclear disarmament:
Nuclear deterrence and the threat of mutually assured destruction cannot be the basis for an ethics of fraternity and peaceful coexistence among peoples and states.Particularly important: the Pope takes the position that it is not just the use of nuclear weapons that is intolerable; it is also the threat of their use, and therefore their existence.
(See the full statement of Pope Francis on nuclear disarmament.)
So: As important as it is for the Pope to stand up to the US and say "you must mend your ways with respect to economic inequality, consumption, and the environment," I think there is something even more important for the Pope to do. He needs to stand up to the US and say, "It is your nuclear weapons that threaten everyone on the planet."
This is an especially timely message now. This summer marked the 70th anniversary of the US atomic bombing of the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan. Perhaps more important, the US has just spent months wrestling with itself over its posture toward Iran, a country that has zero nuclear weapons. Somehow the US was able to focus its attention on the possibility that Iran might someday have a nuclear weapon. Surely the US can now confront its own thousands of nuclear weapons pointed at the rest of the world.
And, yes, of course that message is not for the US. It needs to be delivered to Russia as well.
I don't know if the Pope can go to Moscow. I can only imagine what it would look like if the leaders of the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church stood side by side to say, "Eliminate nuclear weapons."
But isn't now the time to find out?
(For more, see "Pope Francis Will Underscore Immorality of Nuclear Weapons" by Alanna Huck-Scarry, DC intern for Women's Action for New Directions.)
UPDATE September 26, 2015 (UN Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons): "Applause at UN for Pope's words on nuclear arms" (ABC News)
(See ATOMIC HUBRIS: Are There Some Things That Won't Be Forgiven? )
(See TIME FOR A NUCLEAR BAN? On the 70th Anniversary of Hiroshima/Nagasaki )
Call me a demanding citizen, but I think the President should get off his butt and go talk to the leader of Russia. (Yes, Putin.) It's his job.
(See Obama: Go to Moscow!)