CNA Staff, Mar 17, 2021 / 12:00 pm (CNA).- Catholic bishops signed a statement Tuesday calling the U.K. government’s plans to increase its nuclear weapons stockpile a “retrograde step.”

Bishop Declan Lang and Bishop William Kenney joined leaders of six other Christian communities in criticizing the announcement that Britain would lift the cap on the number of Trident nuclear warheads it can stockpile.

The decision to raise the number of warheads by more than 40%, to 260, is part of the government’s integrated review of security, defense, development and foreign policy, unveiled on March 16.

The U.K. had previously signaled that it would reduce its stockpile to 180 warheads by the mid-2020s.

In their statement, the church leaders said: “Our Trident submarines already carry warheads that in total have an explosive yield equivalent to hundreds of the bombs that were dropped on Hiroshima.”

“It is immoral that the U.K. government is committing resources, which could be spent on the common good of our society, to stockpiling even more.”

Lang, the bishop of Clifton, signed the statement in his capacity as chairman of the English and Welsh bishops’ international affairs department. Kenney, an auxiliary bishop of Birmingham, England, is the lead bishop on peace and disarmament issues.

“Over the last 50 years, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty has restricted the increase in the number of nuclear weapons worldwide as well as the number of new nuclear-armed states. This announcement puts those gains in jeopardy and weakens collective action on nonproliferation,” the church leaders said.

“Progress on reducing the threat from nuclear weapons will come through dialogue, diplomacy and principled action. The Government’s announcement today will complicate rather than aid this process.”

At the beginning of the year, Lang, Kenney, and Bishop William Nolan, president of the Scottish bishops’ justice and peace commission, called on the U.K. to give up its nuclear arsenal.

They issued the appeal as the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons came into force on Jan. 22.

In Tuesday’s statement, church leaders said they were encouraged by the treaty’s introduction.

“As people of faith, we join with millions across the world who are working towards the elimination of nuclear arsenals,” they said.

“Living up to our responsibilities under the Non-Proliferation Treaty would be a step towards realizing that vision. We believe that ‘Global Britain’ should strive for peaceful and cooperative international relationships, and joint endeavor on climate change, global poverty and other challenges. This announcement takes us in a worrying and wholly wrong direction.”

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