Pope hits out at ‘brazen’ free circulation of arms

Pope Francis
Pope Francis. Picture: Reuters

Pope Francis on Monday hit out at the “brazen” free circulation of arms worldwide, a day after a gunman used an assault rifle to kill 50 people in an Orlando gay nightclub.

On a visit to the headquarters of the World Food Programme (WFP), the pontiff contrasted the ease of obtaining lethal weapons with the bureaucratic obstacles often encountered by organisations trying to deliver humanitarian aid.

“Whereas forms of aid and development projects are obstructed by involved and comprehensible political decisions, skewed ideological visions and impenetrable customs barriers, weaponry is not,” Francis said.

“It makes no difference where arms come from; they circulate with brazen and virtually absolute freedom in many parts of the world.

“As a result, wars are fed, not people.”

Francis did not explicitly refer to the Orlando shooting in his speech at the UN agency. On Sunday he condemned the killings as an act of “homicidal folly and senseless hatred.”

Global hunger and opposition to the arms trade have been recurring themes in Francis’s pronouncements since he became the first pope from the southern hemisphere in 2013.

The leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics insists hunger can be eliminated by addressing inequalities and waste.

“Food shortage is not something natural,” he said Monday. “That fact that today, well into the 21st Century, so many people suffer from this scourge is due to a selfish and wrong distribution of resources, to the ‘merchandising’ of food.”