VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis warned Friday that nuclear deterrence policies developed during the Cold War provided a “false sense of security,” and he urged government leaders to instead pursue an admittedly utopian future of a world free of atomic weapons.

Francis welcomed Nobel laureates, United Nations officials, NATO representatives and diplomats from countries with the bomb to a Vatican conference aimed at galvanizing global support for complete nuclear disarmament.

The pope acknowledged that current tensions might make a shift away from the idea that nuclear powers need their arsenals to prevent enemies from using them “increasingly remote.”

But he said relying on atomic weapons to maintain a balance of power “creates nothing but a false sense of security.” Any use of them, even accidental, would be “catastrophic” for humanity and the environment, he warned.

“International relations cannot be held captive to military force, mutual intimidation and the parading of stockpiles of arms,” Francis said. Peace and security among nations must instead be “inspired by an ethics of solidarity,” he said.

The Catholic Church’s first Jesuit and first Latin American pope added that “progress that is both effective and inclusive can achieve the utopia of a world free of deadly instruments of aggression.”

Francis endorsed a new U.N. treaty calling for the elimination of atomic weapons, saying it filled an important gap in international law. The treaty came into being thanks in large part to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, the advocacy group that won this year’s Nobel Peace Prize.

ICAN’s executive director, Beatrice Fihn, was among the speakers at the two-day Vatican meeting.

The conference comes amid mounting tensions on the Korean peninsula and heated rhetoric between Washington and Pyongyang over the North’s nuclear ambitions. But the event’s organizer, Cardinal Peter Turkson, told participants that the gathering was planned well before President Trump began his current trip to Asia, where the Korean nuclear threat has topped his agenda. Turkson said it was “divine providence” that the conference and the president’s trip coincided.

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