Pope FrancisPope FrancisRetired pope says he hopes to soon join friends in 'the afterlife' Religion and the G-20: With faith, we can move mountains The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Altria - Jan. 6 panel flexes its muscle MORE on Friday strongly condemned nations that stockpile nuclear weapons for deterrence, a signal that the pontiff is hardening the Catholic Church's stance on nuclear weapons.
Reuters reported that Francis made the remarks at the start of a disarmament conference hosted by the Vatican. In the speech, Francis warned of the “the catastrophic humanitarian and environmental effects of any employment of nuclear devices."
“If we also take into account the risk of an accidental detonation as a result of error of any kind, the threat of their use, as well as their very possession, is to be firmly condemned," Francis said.
The Pope's remarks come amid months of rising tensions between the U.S. and North Korea.
Pyongyang claimed last month that it had conducted a successful test of a hydrogen bomb that the country hopes to place in an intercontinental ballistic missile with the capability of striking the U.S. mainland.
Francis didn't directly mention the U.S. or North Korea in his remarks, but warned against holding international relations "captive" over arms negotiations.
“International relations cannot be held captive to military force, mutual intimidation, and the parading of stockpiles of arms,” Francis said.
Francis has previously spoken out about international affairs, including President Trump's decision to exit the Paris climate accord earlier this year.
“Those who deny this must go to the scientists and ask them. They speak very clearly," Francis said at the time, adding that "history will judge" the U.S. and other nations that don't combat climate change.
Beatrice Fihn, executive director of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, attended the conference and told Reuters that she asked the Pope to lead Catholics in a global prayer to end nuclear weapons on Dec. 10. Fihn's group won the Nobel Peace Prize this year for their anti-nuclear efforts.
“Tensions are really high and the risks for nuclear weapons’ use is higher than at the height of the Cold War, the Cuban missile crisis. I think that’s really serious and we need to urgently do something about this,” she said.