International Atomic Energy Agency
“If we do not learn and teach our students how to cope with this primordial nuclear problem, we need not worry about all the others. After total nuclear conflagration, all human problems are moot.”
—Father Hesburgh, in Contemporary Issues in Higher Education*
Father Hesburgh represented the Vatican in attending the conference, and signing the treaty, that established the International Atomic Energy Agency (the IAEA), seeking to harness nuclear energy for peaceful energy uses rather than for war.
Between 1956 and 1970, Father Hesburgh served as a permanent Vatican City representative to the IAEA.
Responding to mandates from President Dwight Eisenhower, who set forth principles for U.S. and international efforts, and from the Vatican, which authorized him as representative to the IAEA, Father Hesburgh worked diligently in the cause that became known as Atoms for Peace.
During the 1980s, he pursued a private initiative which sought to unite internationally known scientists and world religious leaders in condemning nuclear weapons. He helped organize a 1982 meeting in Vatican City of 58 world-class scientists who called for the elimination of nuclear weapons. He subsequently brought together in Vienna leaders of six faith traditions who endorsed the view of these scientists.
*Hesburgh, Theodore Martin. “The Role of the Academy in a Nuclear Age," Contemporary Issues in Higher Education. New York: Macmillan Publishing Company, 1985. Print.