VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Pope Francis urged world leaders on Thursday to divert funds used for armaments to confront problems such as the COVID-19 pandemic and ensure vaccines reach the poor and most vulnerable nations.
In his message for the Roman Catholic Church’s World Day of Peace, which is celebrated on Jan. 1, Francis also repeated a call for the establishment of a global fund with money slated for weapons to be used instead to help eradicate poverty.
The annual message, this year titled “A Culture of Care as a Path to Peace,” is traditionally sent to heads of state, government, international organisations and other religions.
“How many resources are spent on weaponry, especially nuclear weapons, that could be used for more significant priorities such as ensuring the safety of individuals, the promotion of peace and integral human development, the fight against poverty, and the provision of health care.” Francis said.
“Global problems like the present COVID-19 pandemic and climate change have only made these challenges all the more evident,” he added.
Under Pope Francis, the Roman Catholic Church has hardened is stance against nuclear weapons and called for their total abolition. In 2017, he said countries should not stockpile them even for the purpose of deterrence.
“What a courageous decision it would be to establish a ‘Global Fund’ with the money spent on weapons and other military expenditures, in order to permanently eliminate hunger and contribute to the development of the poorest countries,’ he said.
Francis, who has repeatedly condemned so-called “vaccine nationalism”, said the poorest nations should not be left behind in the fight against coronavirus.
“I renew my appeal to political leaders and the private sector to spare no effort to ensure access to COVID-19 vaccines and to the essential technologies needed to care for the sick, the poor and those who are most vulnerable,” he said.
He paid tribute to medical staff and other front-line workers who risked their lives by helping coronavirus victims, especially those who died in the process.
“In the face of the pandemic, we have realized that we are in the same boat, all of us fragile and disoriented, but at the same time important and needed, all of us called to row together,” he said.
Reporting by Philip Pullella. Editing by Mark Potter
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