Georgetown Student Meets with Pope Francis to Discuss Nuclear Disarmament


Hunter Estes (’19 SFS) travelled to the Vatican last week to attend a conference entitled “Perspectives for a World Free From Nuclear Weapons and for Integral Disarmament.” Cardinals, Nobel laureates, archbishops, professors, Nagasaki survivors, ambassadors from around the world, and United Nations representatives all attended this two day event to discuss the ongoing process of advancing an international treaty which would ban nuclear weapons.


Pope Francis spoke during this event and actively condemned the use and possession of nuclear weapons. This policy stance is actually a papal shift, as the Church previously accepted nuclear weapons as a tool of deterrence so long as the ultimate goal of wielding these weapons was the eventual elimination of nuclear weapons globally. The Church has always condemned the conception of nuclear weapons, but for years there was a tacit understanding of the necessity of deterrence.


After the speech, Georgetown’s own Hunter Estes spoke with the Pope. “In my brief words with him, I asked him to pray for Georgetown to which he smiled and nodded.”


Perhaps unsurprisingly, Estes was not the only Hoya in the building. Rose Gottemoeller, Deputy Secretary General of NATO and a Georgetown alum, also attended the conference. Gottemoeller was one of the few voices of dissent at the conference as she articulated that the apparatus of security and defense among nuclear-armed nations is currently working to gradually reduce nuclear proliferation.


Father Drew Christiansen S.J. also attended the conference and gave a speech entitled “The social and moral responsibility of scientists.” Fr. Christiansen is a distinguished Professor of Ethics and Global Human Development in the SFS and also works as a Senior Research Fellow at the Berkley Center for Religion Ethics and World Affairs at Georgetown.


The overall goal of this conference was to get more nations to ratify the anti-nuclear treaty. Thus far, three nations have ratified the agreement including the Vatican. Getting large nations with significant roles in world affairs will likely be an uphill battle, as nuclear arsenals are difficult to dismantle and perceived as an essential tool of national power. This conference is likely an important step in advancing the Vatican’s goal of a safer world.


“I would just emphasize how thankful I am to be at a school that is so invested and interconnected with the world around us that we have opportunities like this to represent Georgetown abroad. The experience felt like a dream. As a Catholic, I will never forget my opportunity to meet Pope Francis or to pray and celebrate mass surrounded by friends, Nobel laureates, Church leaders, ambassadors, and others. I am eternally grateful to be at a school that presents students such amazing opportunities,” said Estes about this once in a lifetime experience.