VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Pope Benedict, in his annual “state of the world” address, on Monday called on nations to make a global commitment on security in order to prevent terrorists from gaining access to nuclear weapons.
Speaking to diplomats from 176 countries accredited to the Vatican, he deplored “continual attacks” on human life, saying new frontiers in bioethics called for a “moral use of science”.
He issued fresh appeals for Middle East peace, decried bloodshed in Asia and Africa, and welcomed the United Nations’ recent resolution for a moratorium on the death penalty.
The Pope re-stated the Catholic Church’s opposition to homosexual marriage and bluntly called on politicians to defend the traditional family as the basic cell of society.
“I wish to urge the international community to make a global commitment on security,” he said in the speech which is sometimes referred to as a “state of the world” address because it examines aspects of the international situation.
“A joint effort on the part of states to implement all the obligations undertaken and to prevent terrorists from gaining access to weapons of mass destruction would undoubtedly strengthen the nuclear non-proliferation regime and make it more effective,” he said.
The leader of the world’s 1.1 billion Roman Catholics has often made appeals for nuclear and conventional disarmament but has never been so explicit on the need for governments to prevent terrorists from getting their hands on nuclear weapons.
The Pope said he welcomed North Korea’s agreement to join a nuclear dismantling program and also called for “good faith” negotiations and diplomacy to resolve difference over Iran’s disputed nuclear program.
Iran says its first atomic power plant will start operating in mid-2008, despite U.N. sanctions aimed at making it stop nuclear activity over concerns that it secretly seeks atomic bombs, not nuclear-generated electricity — as it maintains.
He welcomed the pledge made last November by Israeli and Palestinian leaders at Annapolis, Maryland to try to reach a peace deal by the end of 2008.
“I invite the international community to give strong support to these two peoples and to understand their respective sufferings and fears,” he said.
The Pope dedicated one section of his speech to the defense of the dignity of the human person.
“I cannot but deplore once again the continual attacks perpetrated on every continent against human life,” he said.
“I would like to recall, together with many men and women dedicated to research and science, that the new frontiers reached in bioethics do not require us to choose between science and morality: rather, they oblige us to a moral use of science,” he said.
The Catholic Church is opposed to embryonic stem cell research if it includes destruction of an embryo but is studying recent research in the United States that has found potential ways to convert ordinary skin cells into stem cells.
Scientists hope stem cells can be used in regenerative medicine for treatment of injuries as well as diseases such as Parkinson’s and diabetes.
Editing by Matthew Jones