Maryknoll Office Leads Catholic Effort Urging Biden to Avoid Nuclear Response
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The Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns sends a joint letter calling on President Biden to use diplomacy with the Russian president to avoid nuclear war.

WASHINGTON (CNS) — Catholic organizations and religious orders are calling President Joe Biden to undertake diplomatic means to prevent nuclear war with Russia.

In an Oct. 26 letter to Biden sent by the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns, the organizations condemned Russian President Vladimir Putin‘s threat to use nuclear weapons in Ukraine and urged Biden not to respond in kind if such weapons are used.

“We urge you to show great restraint, and to do everything in your power to de-escalate the conflict, to seek dialogue with Russia, and take immediate, concrete steps toward nuclear disarmament,” the letter said.

Susan Gunn, director of the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns, said in a statement that “to work for peace in times of conflict requires imagination and faith.”

“We hope President Biden is inspired by his Catholic faith, to see beyond the boundaries of race, religion and nation to keep pursuing diplomacy and dialogue, and not get caught in an escalation of arms but rather keep turning attention to the care for our common humanity that makes us all brothers and sisters on this one Earth,” she said.

The letter expressed concern that Putin’s threat to use nuclear weapons is the most significant since the Cuban missile crisis in 1962.

It also cites statements from Pope Francis on the threat posed by nuclear weapons. It particularly pointed to the pope’s Oct. 2 comments during the Angelus at the Vatican where he expressed concern about the “risk of nuclear escalation” that would give “rise to fears of uncontrollable and catastrophic consequences worldwide.”

The correspondence also explains that the nuclear threat is “the single greater moral issue” facing Biden because any use of nuclear weapons “would hasten climate disaster.”

Representatives of the organizations said they would welcome a meeting with Biden to discuss their concerns and the necessity to pursue diplomacy to end the war in Ukraine.

To date, the letter has been signed by 29 organizations and religious orders, including: Franciscan Action Network, Leadership Conference of Women Religious, the Association of U.S. Catholic Priests, Pax Christi USA, United States Catholic Mission Association, Sisters of Bon Secours, USA, Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia, Sisters of St. Anne, Dominican Sisters of Peace and Grey Nuns of the Sacred Heart.

The Rev. Greg Barras, leadership team chair of the Association of United States Catholic Priests, was quoted in a press release as being “compelled by conscience to sign this letter.”

Michele Dunne, executive director of the Franciscan Action Network, was also quoted: “As Franciscans, we feel deeply the sacredness of all human life and kinship with all creation. … We appeal to President Biden to do all within his power to prevent the use of nuclear weapons.”

“The people of Ukraine are front and center in our prayers for peace in that country, as are the people of Russia caught in the web of war,” wrote Fran Eskin-Royer, executive director of the National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd. The statement continued, “we [also] pray … for you, Mr. President, that you may lead our country and the world safely out of the nuclear dangers we are facing.”

Dan Moriarty, who with Gunn is a staff member at the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns, noted, “Maryknoll missioners understand that the threats of nuclear warfare coming from Moscow endanger Ukrainians, but also every community where Maryknoll missioners live and work around the world, every person on earth, and our common home.”

The Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns said that more than 400 people have also signed an action alert urging president Biden to “pursue diplomacy to avoid a nuclear war.”

Moriarty added, “We, as citizens of a nuclear superpower and as Catholics, have a unique responsibility to call upon our leaders, and especially our Catholic president, to heed the prophetic teachings of our Church.”

Editors’ note: content was updated Thursday, Oct. 27, 2022 and material added by Maryknoll/Misioneros editors.

Featured image: A child holds the flag of Ukraine next to one of the lions at Trafalgar Square, Feb. 27, 2022. (Alisdare Hickson, Flickr)

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