Pope Francis called on the international community to support dialogue to ease tensions on the Korean peninsula and to work for a legally binding ban on nuclear weapons.
In an annual speech to diplomats on Monday that has come to be known as his “State of the World” address, Francis also repeated his call for the “status quo” of Jerusalem to remain intact following U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize the city as Israel’s capital.
Francis also addressed climate change, calling for countries to remain committed to the 2015 Paris accord on reducing carbon emissions.
Trump has announced that the United States will withdraw from the agreement.
“It is of paramount importance to support every effort at dialogue on the Korean peninsula, in order to find new ways of overcoming the current disputes, increasing mutual trust and ensuring a peaceful future for the Korean people and the entire world,” Francis said.
The pope addressed diplomats a day before North Korea and South Korea are due to hold talks expected to address North Korea’s participation in the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics.
Earlier, after North Korean leader Kim Jong Un asserted that he had a nuclear button at the ready, Trump tweeted that the U.S. button at his disposal was bigger and more powerful.
“Nuclear weapons must be banned,” Francis said, quoting a document issued by Pope John XXIII at the height of the Cold War and adding that there is “no denying that the conflagration could be started by some chance and unforeseen circumstance”.
He noted that the Holy See was among 122 states that last year agreed to a UN treaty to ban nuclear weapons.
The U.S., Britain, France and others boycotted the talks that led to the treaty, instead pledging commitment to a decades-old Non-Proliferation Treaty.