The catholic Bishop of Lancaster has said the UK government is fuelling the development of nuclear weapons around the world.
He has also called on the government to develop alternative ways of employing the skills and knowledge of those within the arms industry for peaceful ends.
His comments came on the eve of the debate in the House of Commons concerning the government's plans to replace the Trident nuclear weapons system with a new one.
The government's position has already caused the resignations of two members of government, and will see protests in Westminster involving many Christians.
In a statement the Bishop of Lancaster, Patrick O’Donoghue, said; "The Catholic Church condemns the use of nuclear weapons, and has always been clear that the strategy of nuclear deterrence can only be a step on the road to complete nuclear disarmament. In my judgement, the UK’s continued possession of nuclear weapons is no longer simply maintaining the ‘balance of terror’, but fuelling the development of new nuclear weapon systems around the world.
"Peace is more than the absence of war" he continued, "it results from recognising, and protecting, the dignity of every human being and of all creation. At this moment I believe the government is facing a unique moral and strategic opportunity to build a more peaceful world.
"I urge the Prime Minister and his government not to go ahead with the replacement of Trident, and to commit themselves to decommissioning our existing nuclear weapons systems, thus fulfilling our obligations under the non-proliferation treaty and giving new impetus to international efforts to achieve disarmament.
"I am aware, too, that a large number of families in my Diocese depend largely upon the arms industry for their livelihood. I would be delighted if the government would join with the Churches and other interested agencies to explore alternative ways of employing the valuable skills and knowledge of those within the arms industry."