WASHINGTON (CNS) — Saying that nuclear weapons increase instability and reduce security, the Holy See’s permanent representative to the United Nations reiterated the Vatican’s call for the abolition of such weapons to a congressional committee.

Money spent on building, maintaining and upgrading nuclear weapon systems would go a long way to making the world more peaceful if the funds were used to better the lives of people around the world, Archbishop Bernardito Auza told the House Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organizations April 28.

The archbishop explained that the Vatican has always opposed the possession and use of nuclear weapons on moral grounds and that church leaders have become concerned that in recent years limited progress has been made toward the goal of nuclear disarmament.

He summarized the Vatican’s stance on nuclear weapons that was outlined in statements and a paper presented at the Vienna Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons in December. The paper said the concept of deterrence — the principle that such weapons might be used and that they exist to deter another country from using them — was accepted only as a step toward disarmament.

He called for the United States and the world’s seven other nuclear powers to step up efforts to abolish nuclear weapons.

“For our own good and that of future generations, we have no reasonable and moral option other than the abolition of nuclear weapons,” Archbishop Auza told the committee, chaired by Rep. Chris Smith, R-New Jersey. “Nuclear weapons are global problem and they impact on all countries and all peoples, including future generations.”

The archbishop pointed to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and said the pact called upon the world to eliminate all nuclear weapons. The treaty is undergoing a monthlong review at the U.N.

He also reviewed the calls of popes beginning with St. John XXIII for nuclear abolition.

“It would be naive and myopic if we seek to assure world peace and security through nuclear weapons rather than through the eradication of poverty, making health care and education accessible to all and promoting peaceful institutions and societies through dialogue and solidarity,” Archbishop Auza said.

Stephen Colecchi, director of the U.S. bishops’ Office of International Justice and Peace, recapped the moral arguments made by the bishops’ in a brief presentation to the committee.

“The bishops of the United States are deeply engaged in the moral enterprise of working for a world without nuclear weapons,” Colecchi said.

He cited the bishops’ 1983 pastoral letter, “The Challenge of Peace: God’s Promise and Our Response,” as the cornerstone of church teaching on nuclear weapons in the U.S.

Since that document was released, individual American prelates have supported various treaties that mandated reductions in nuclear weapons and opposed the construction of new weapon systems in letters to Congress and White House administrations, Colecchi added.