The existence of nuclear weapons creates a false sense of security that holds international relations hostage and stifles peaceful coexistence, Pope Francis has said.

“The threat of their use as well as their very possession is to be firmly condemned,” the Pope told participants at a conference on nuclear disarmament hosted by the Vatican.

For decades, popes and bishops have said that the policy of nuclear deterrence could be morally acceptable as long as real work was underway on a complete ban of the weapons.

In condemning possession of the weapons, Pope Francis seemed to be expressing a stronger opinion than his predecessors.

Nuclear weapons “exist in the service of a mentality of fear that affects not only the parties in conflict but the entire human race”, he said.

The conference, sponsored by the Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, brought together 11 Nobel laureates and officials from the United Nations and NATO as well as diplomats and experts in nuclear weapons and the disarmament process.

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