Archbishop leading Vatican’s fight on nuclear weapons becomes Cardinal

By Drew Christiansen SJ, 5 November 2020
Cardinal-elect Silvano M. Tomasi (right), Former Apostolic Nunzio and Permanent Observer Emeritus to the United Nations. Image: Vatican News


Sunday Oct. 25 was a double red-letter day for Silvano Maria Tomasi, C.S. Honduras had ratified the Treaty on Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons the day before, hastening a global nuclear weapons ban into force in January 2021. Helping shepherd that treaty through the United Nations had been one of the highlights of Archbishop Tomasi’s diplomatic career.

Then at his noon Angelus meeting, Pope Francis announced the elevation of Archbishop Tomasi and 12 others as cardinals. Cardinal-elect Tomasi, a naturalized American citizen, was one of two Americans added to the college of cardinals, with Cardinal-elect Wilton Gregory of Washington. That announcement in combination with the treaty’s advancement was a moment of serendipity, the crowning of a rich career.

Among many international bodies joined by Archbishop Tomasi in a varied and vigorous career in diplomatic service to the Holy See were the United Nations Human Rights Council and the Conference on Disarmament.

It was with his colleagues in disarmament dialogues that he found the signature issue of his last years in diplomatic service, nuclear weapons abolition.

Beginning in 2013, Archbishop Tomasi led the Holy See delegations to a series of international meetings on the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons that prepared the way for “the ban treaty.” After the U.N. conference had adopted the treaty, he worked with Cardinal Peter Turkson to prepare a Vatican conference to mark its passage. Before an audience of Nobel Peace Prize laureates, diplomats, civil society leaders and church peace activists, Pope Francis declared of nuclear weapons, “the threat of their use, as well as their very possession, is to be firmly condemned.”

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Drew Christiansen, S.J., former editor in chief and president of America, is Distinguished Professor of Ethics and Global Development at Georgetown University and a senior research fellow at the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs. He contributed to two volumes Cardinal-elect Tomasi published on immigration policy and for the last seven years collaborated with him on his work for nuclear disarmament.

With thanks to America Magazine and Drew Christiansen SJ, where this article originally appeared.


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