Pope Francis warns that nuclear war is on the horizon

Pope Francis told reporters on Monday, "I think we are at the very limit. I am really afraid of this."

By Matthew Rozsa
Published January 15, 2018 3:49PM (EST)
 (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)
(AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)

Pope Francis is worried that a nuclear war is imminent.

"I think we are at the very limit. I am really afraid of this. One accident is enough to precipitate things," Pope Francis told reporters on the papal plane on Monday.

Prior to boarding the plane, Vatican officials also handed out photographs of a Japanese child carrying his dead brother on his shoulders following the United States' decision to drop an atomic bomb on Nagasaki.

"I was moved when I saw this. The only thing I could think of adding were the words ‘the fruit of war,’" Pope Francis said. "I wanted to have it reprinted and distributed because an image like this can be more moving than a thousand words. That is why I wanted to share it with you."

Although he didn't specifically mention President Donald Trump or North Korea, Pope Francis' comments may have been inspired by the recent headlines coming from Hawaii. An emergency missile alert was accidentally sent out to everyone in that state on Saturday, prompting mass panic as people received messages saying, "Ballistic missile threat inbound to Hawaii. Seek immediate shelter. This is not a drill." The false warning was later determined to have been caused by an emergency worker's error.

The subsequent outrage in Hawaii has left many with lingering concerns not only about the possibility of a real nuclear war, but about the prospect that an actual missile attack would be more devastating precisely because Hawaiians will be more skeptical of emergency warnings in the future.

After the fiasco had subsided, the White House released a brief statement blaming Hawaii's state government for the incident.

"The president has been briefed on the state of Hawaii’s emergency management exercise. This was purely a state exercise," explained the White House statement.

While Trump has often been accused of playing fast and loose with the prospect of nuclear war, not all foreign policy experts share that assessment.

"I'm not a fan of the Twitter diplomacy that Trump often tries to use. I think the reality, though, is that Kim Jong Un — because he is so intent on acquiring this nuclear capability, of hitting the United States — he is an erratic, unpredictable figure," Jamie Fly, a former foreign policy adviser under President George W. Bush and senior fellow at the German Marshall Fund, told Salon. "You know, so I don't think that the risky partner in this equation is Donald Trump, it's Kim Jong Un."

Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a staff writer for Salon. He holds an MA in History from Rutgers University-Newark and is ABD in his PhD program in History at Lehigh University. His work has appeared in Mic, Quartz and MSNBC.

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Donald Trump Nuclear War Pope Francis