VATICAN CITY (RNS) Nuclear arms proliferation, environmental pollution and economic inequality are threats to world peace -- but so are abortion, birth control and same-sex marriage, Pope Benedict XVI said in a statement released by the Vatican Tuesday (Dec. 11). "The Human Family, a Community of Peace" is this year's papal message for the World Day of Peace, which will be observed Jan. 1. Presenting the nuclear family as the "first and indispensable teacher of peace" and the "primary agency of peace," the 15-page document links sexual and medical ethics to international relations. "Everything that serves to weaken the family based on the marriage of a man and woman, everything that directly or indirectly stands in the way of its openness to the responsible acceptance of new life ... constitutes an objective obstacle on the road to peace," Benedict writes. Regarding actual military conflicts, the pope laments unspecified African civil wars and violence in the Middle East. Condemning what he describes as a global "arms race," Benedict calls for a "progressive and mutually agreed dismantling of existing nuclear weapons." At a press conference held to present the document, a top Vatican official criticized the U.S. for its handling of Iran's suspected nuclear arms program, saying that Washington's rhetoric had fomented international tensions. "All these threats, all these worries, these threats of war and invasion ... harm the international atmosphere because they can provoke worries and the reinforcement of security with the production of new arms," said Cardinal Renato Martino, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, and a former Vatican envoy to the United Nations. In his message, the pope also endorses greater cooperation on environmental protection, writing that "further international agencies may need to be established" for the purpose. He also calls for an "equitable distribution of wealth" in a globalized world.