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Vatican Panel Reportedly Opposes Star Wars Proposal

July 6, 1985

VATICAN CITY (AP) _ Leading scientists have told Pope John Paul II that the U.S.-proposed Star Wars anti-missile defense plan is not likely to be 100 percent effective and that it would sharply accelerate the arms race, Italian newspapers reported today.

In a secret report to the pontiff, the scientists also asserted that the space defense program would take 10 to 15 years before becoming operational and that during that period, the superpowers probably will be able to produce ″super-missiles″ capable of penetrating the space shield, the newspapers said.

The scientists from 10 countries examined President Reagan’s proposal, officially known as the Strategic Defense Initiative, during a four-day seminar on space weapons in January.

The conference, sponsored by the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, brought together 26 scientists and three prelates, including four members of the Soviet Academy of Sciences and seven U.S. experts.

Their report, adopted unanimously, was subsequently submitted to the pontiff, and still remains secret. Rome’s left-leaning La Repubblica said Washington has appealed to the Vatican not to release the report while the Soviet Union insisted that it should be made public.

Today, the Italian newspapers published what they described as portions of the panel’s recommendation. Enrico di Rovasenda, director of the Pontifical Academy, told The Associated Press that the report was for ″the eyes of the Holy Father only″ and that he did not want to comment on the newspaper accounts.

Asked to comment on the reports, Monsignor Giulio Nicolini, deputy Vatican spokesman, said the Pontifical Academy ″has examined this problem and it is still under consideration (by the Vatican).″ He refused to answer any other questions.

As reported by Il Messaggero, Rome’s largest circulation daily, and La Repubblica, the scientists submitted these findings to the pope:

- ″The perfection″ of the space defense system requires at least 10 to 15 years of study and research.

- It does not appear possible that the space shield could be made ″watertight or 100 percent effective.″ Instead, it would greatly accelerate the arms race, ″altering the already precarious balance of power″ between the two superpowers.

- During the time required for the SDI research and construction, it would be possible to build ″super-missiles″ capable of penetrating the space shield at about half the cost needed for the Star Wars system.

The Pontifical Academy of 73 members, including 26 Nobel Prize winners, helps the pope and the Roman Catholic Church keep track of scientific advances that might pose ethical, moral or theological problems. It has no Soviet members, but Moscow has been sending experts to selected conferences.

The U.S. members at the seminar included Professor Eugenio G. Fubini of Vienna, Va., listed as a U.S. Defense Department consultant.

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