Pope Francis again threw the spotlight on the real risk of a devastating nuclear war, when asked by a journalist on the flight from Rome to Santiago on Jan. 15, whether he was really afraid of a nuclear war. He admitted frankly: “Yes, I am truly afraid. We are at the limit. An accident is sufficient.” He went on to repeat the call for the abolition of nuclear arms that he has made on other occasions.
“We cannot precipitate the situation. We must eliminate nuclear arms,” the pope said. Last November at a Vatican conference on nuclear weapons, Pope Francis said the possession of such arms is immoral. Today, he revealed his own fear that such a catastrophe could happen, even by accident.
Pope Francis: “I am truly afraid. We are at the limit. An accident is sufficient.”
The question was sparked by the fact that soon after takeoff, at the pope’s instruction, the Vatican press officer, Greg Burke, distributed to each of the 70 journalists on the plane a photo of a young Japanese boy carrying his dead brother on his back, waiting for his turn at the crematorium in Nagasaki, after the United States dropped the atomic bomb on the city in 1945.
Francis commented on the photo and said, “I wanted it printed and given to you because an image moves [people] more than a thousand words.” He went on to thank the journalist traveling with him for the work they would do in Chile and Peru over the next week and then, as is his custom, he moved through the plane to greet each one individually.
When he greeted Franca Giansoldati, the reporter for Il Messagero, the Rome daily that he reads, she asked him directly, “Are you really afraid of a nuclear war?” He responded frankly: “Yes, I am truly afraid. We are truly at the limit. An accident is sufficient.”
Greg Burke distributed a photo of a young Japanese boy carrying his dead brother on his back, waiting for his turn at the crematorium in Nagasaki.
Francis arrived at the airport in Santiago, the capital of Chile, 30 minutes ahead of schedule, after a more than 14-hour flight from Rome.
The president of Chile, Michelle Bachelet, members of her government and the president of the Chilean bishops’ conference welcomed Francis when he stepped off the plane. After a brief welcome ceremony, at which a young girl sang for him, the pope drove through the city to the nunciature, as Chileans lined the streets and cheered him enthusiastically. On arrival at the nunciature he greeted women and children in the large crowd that had gathered outside. He will reside there for the three nights of his visit.
Pope Francis will travel south to Temuco to meet the Mapuche native people on Jan. 17 and celebrate Mass there. He will go north to Iquique on Jan 18, where he will celebrate Mass and speak on the plight of immigrants in the country. From Iquique, he will travel to Lima, the capital of Peru.
Tomorrow morning, Francis will pay a courtesy visit to the president at La Moneda Palace, the presidential residence in Santiago, and there he will address the country’s political and civic leaders and the diplomatic corps.
Afterward, he will drive to O’Higgins Park where he will celebrate his first Mass in Peru for hundreds of thousands of people, including thousands who will have come from his native Argentina.