Catholic Bishops and organisations call for an end to the arms trade

Catholic Bishops and organisations have voiced their opposition to the arms trade, as the UK prepares to host one of the world’s largest arms fairs next week.

The DSEI arms fair takes place in London 14-17 September, bringing together governments and military delegations from across the world with more than 1,500 companies selling guns, bombs, and other weaponry.

A statement signed by Catholic Bishops from across the UK, took up the call of Pope Francis to end the arms trade. Commenting on behalf of the Bishops’ Conference of Scotland, Bishop William Nolan, Bishop of Galloway said: “Tragically, conflicts fueled by the trade harm the world’s poorest communities, they force people to flee their homes as refugees, and they have devastating consequences for our environment.  

"We urge governments across the world, including our own, to commit themselves to ending the global arms trade and instead pursue the path of peace and reconciliation.”

Full statement:

As the UK again prepares to host one of the world’s largest arms fairs, we recall the message of Pope Francis: “Why are deadly weapons being sold to those who plan to inflict untold suffering on individuals and society? Sadly, the answer, as we all know, is simply for money: money that is drenched in blood, often innocent blood. In the face of this shameful and culpable silence, it is our duty to confront the problem and to stop the arms trade.”

We recognise the right of every country to defend itself against attack, but we must never ignore, or allow ourselves to become complicit in, the destruction of human life and violations of human dignity made possible by the sale of weaponry. The conflicts fueled by this trade harm the poorest communities, force people to flee their homes as refugees, and have devastating consequences for our environment.

We stand alongside all those people of goodwill who are peacefully campaigning against the arms trade and join in prayer with the Holy Father that our leaders may commit themselves to ending it, in pursuit of peace and care for our whole human family.

Bishop William Nolan, President – Justice and Peace Scotland

Bishop Declan Lang, Chair – Department of International Affairs, Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales

Bishop William Kenney, lead bishop for peace and disarmament issues, Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales

Bishop Paul McAleenan, lead bishop for migrants and refugees, Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales

Ann Farr, Chair, Pax Christi England and Wales

Marian Pallister, Chair, Pax Christi Scotland

Christine Allen, Director, CAFOD

Alistair Dutton, Director, SCIAF

Paul Southgate, Chair, National Justice and Peace Network

Scottish church leaders respond to foreign policy and defence review

Bishop William Nolan, Bishop of Galloway and President of the Commission for Justice and Peace Scotland, has joined seven other Scottish church leaders in signing a statement responding to the UK Government’s integrated review of foreign and defence policies.

The review, discussed in the UK Parliament on Tuesday, proposed removing the cap on the number of nuclear weapons stockpiled, allowing for an increase of up to 40%.

The statement

The UK Government’s decision to increase the number of Trident nuclear warheads the UK can stockpile by more than 40% is a deeply worrying development.

The move, part of the integrated review of defence, security and foreign policy, is a retrograde step which threatens the common good and reverses nearly 30 years of gradual disarmament.

The decision is a contravention of the UK’s obligations under the UN Non-Proliferation Treaty and undermines the international rules-based order. It ignores the growing global movement in support of the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons which calls for ‘the irreversible, verifiable and transparent elimination of nuclear weapons’.

For many years, Scottish churches have agreed that the use, or threat of use, of nuclear weapons is immoral and their very possession should be condemned in a world that needs peace.

The financial cost of a larger nuclear arsenal cannot be justified in the face of the UK’s high rates of poverty and deprivation, and the challenges of the climate emergency and the Covid-19 pandemic.

The UK must take its responsibilities and Treaty obligations seriously, strive for global nuclear disarmament, and work towards peaceful and cooperative international relationships.


  • Rev. Dr Martin Fair, Moderator of the General Assembly, Church of Scotland
  • Rev. William Nolan, Bishop of Galloway, Commission for Justice and Peace, Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Scotland
  • Most Rev. Mark Strange, Primus, on behalf of the College of Bishops, Scottish Episcopal Church
  • John Fulton, Moderator, United Free Church of Scotland
  • Elizabeth Allen, Clerk of General Meeting for Scotland, Religious Society of Friends (Quakers)
  • Paul Whittle, Moderator, United Reformed Church (Scotland)
  • Mark Slaney, District Chair, Methodist Church (Scotland)
  • May-Kane Logan, Chair, Congregational Federation in Scotland

This article first appeared on the website of the Catholic Parliamentary Office.

Catholic Bishops call on UK to 'forsake nuclear arsenal'

A historic treaty prohibiting nuclear arms comes into force today as Catholic Bishops across the UK call on the UK Government to "forsake its nuclear arsenal”.

Earlier this month the Bishops, including Scotland's Bishop William Nolan, realeased a statement calling on the government to support the Treaty. The UK has so far failed to sign it, along with other major nuclear powers.

Their statement quotes a message from Pope Francis to the UN calling the complete elimination of nuclear weapons a “moral and humanitarian imperative.

It also urges the UK to “strengthen its arms control regulations, tackling the manufacture and sale of other weaponry, which continues to destroy so many lives throughout the world.”

Statement on the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons

On Friday 22 January 2021 the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons comes into force. This is a historic milestone on the path to nuclear disarmament and an opportunity to refocus on genuine peacebuilding rooted in dialogue, justice, respect for human dignity, and care for our planet.

In setting out the “moral and humanitarian imperative for complete elimination of nuclear weapons, Pope Francis reminded us that “international peace and stability cannot be based on a false sense of security, on the threat of mutual destruction or total annihilation.”[1]

We urge support for the Treaty and repeat our call for the UK to forsake its nuclear arsenal. The resources spent on manufacturing, maintaining and upgrading these weapons of mass destruction, should be reinvested to alleviate the suffering of the poorest and most vulnerable members of our society, for the Common Good of all peoples.[2]

At the same time, we implore the government to strengthen its arms control regulations, tackling the manufacture and sale of other weaponry, which continues to destroy so many lives throughout the world.

Above all we pray: Lord, Father of our human family, you created all human beings equal in dignity; pour forth into our hearts a fraternal spirit. Move us to create healthier societies and a more dignified world, a world without hunger, poverty, violence and war.[3]

+Declan Lang
Bishop of Clifton
Chair, International Affairs Department, Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales

+William Nolan
Bishop of Galloway
Commission for Justice and Peace, Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Scotland

+William Kenney
Auxiliary Bishop of Birmingham

[1] Message to the UN conference to negotiate a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading towards their total elimination (23 March 2017)

[2] Statement on nuclear weapons (4 August 2020)

[3] Fratelli Tutti

'Unjust and immoral': Bishops condemn UK nuclear weapons

A joint statement condemning the UK Government's nuclear weapons arsenal has been issued by the Bishops' Conference of Scotland and England & Wales.

It comes in the week marking the 75th anniversary of the atomic bombings of Japan, and reinforces Pope Francis' message that such weapons are "immoral" and "incompatible with our efforts to build peace". It finishes by calling for Catholics to pray for the "conversion off hearts".

The statement

Statement on nuclear weapons from the Bishops of Scotland and England & Wales 

"During his historic visit to Japan last year, Pope Francis declared that 'the use of atomic energy for purposes of war is immoral, just as the possession of atomic weapons is immoral'. Seventy-five years on from the unprecedented and horrific destruction of life at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, we are called to reflect prayerfully upon the UK’s own possession of nuclear weapons.

Pope Francis reiterated that the threat of mutual destruction, the massive loss of innocent lives and the annihilation of any future for our common home, is completely incompatible with our efforts to build peace.

“If we really want to build a more just and secure society, we must let the weapons fall from our hands”, said the Pope.

He also reminded us that it is unjust to continue squandering precious resources on manufacturing, maintaining and upgrading ever more destructive technology. The cost of nuclear weapons should be measured not only in the lives destroyed through their use, but also the suffering of the poorest and most vulnerable people, who could have benefited were such vast sums of public money invested in the Common Good of society instead.

The Scottish and English and Welsh bishops' conferences have in the past called on the UK government to forsake its own nuclear weapons. We therefore recommit ourselves to the abolition of these weapons and to the Holy Father’s call to pray each day “for the conversion of hearts and for the triumph of a culture of life, reconciliation and fraternity. A fraternity that can recognize and respect diversity in the quest for a common destiny.”

+ William Nolan, Bishop of Galloway and on behalf of the Commission for Justice and Peace of the Bishops’ Conference of Scotland. 

+ Bishop Declan Lang,  Bishop of Clifton and Chairman of the international Affairs Department of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales.