March 15, 2000
volume 11, no. 53
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NEWS & VIEWS     Acknowledgments
Articles provided through Catholic World News and Church News at Noticias Eclesiales and International Dossiers, Daily Dispatches and Features at ZENIT International News Agency. CWN, NE and ZENIT are not affiliated with the Daily CATHOLIC but provide this service via e-mail to the Daily CATHOLIC Monday through Friday.

Mainline Evangelical Protestants Announce Solidarity

    NEW YORK, MAR 14 ( The attempt by pro-abortion groups to downgrade the Holy See from U.N. Permanent Observer to non-governmental organization (NGO) is meeting with hefty opposition. A coalition of some 800 groups, spearheaded by the Catholic Family & Human Rights Institute (C-FAM), have joined together to defeat the campaign.

    The "See Change" campaign, promoted by "Catholics for a Free Choice," calls for U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan to review the status of the Holy See. According to the See Change web site, the Catholic Church enjoys priveleges that other religions do not, and hence should be downgraded, out of justice to the others. The group has gathered together some 350 NGOs in support of its project, which also includes a postcard campaign from the general public.

    Perhaps the most surprising aspect of the opposition to this campaign is its universality. Tomorrow, Focus on the Family, Family Research Council, and Concerned Women for America will announce their involvement in the campaign. "This campaign is a world historical moment precisely because it brings together so many groups from so many faiths in defense of the Catholic Church," said Austin Ruse, president of C-FAM.

    Tom Minnery, vice-president of Focus on the Family, a mainline Christian organization founded by Dr. James Dobson, stated, "We at Focus on the Family know what a valuable ally the Catholic CHurch has been in defending life and the family around the world. We worked with Catholics, Protestantsí evangelicals, and Muslims at the U.N. World Conference on Women at Beijing back in 1995."

    The U.S. House and Senate have also passed resolutions in favor of the Holy See. The resolution warns that a Vatican Ouster from the U.N. would "further damage relations between the United States and the United Nations."

    The Holy See's status in the U.N. and other international forums stems from a long tradition of diplomatic activity beginning even before the advent of modern European diplomacy. As early as the fourth century the Holy See sent and received envoys, enjoying the same diplomatic rights and privileges as envoys of kings and queens.

    In 1870, the Kingdom of Italy annexed all that remained of the Papal States, or almost all -- Vatican City and a few extra-territorial sites remain sovereign. This enabled the Church to focus more exclusively on its spiritual mission in the world.

    This change, however, did not eradicate its legal and juridical standing in the international forum. The Holy See maintained, and continues to maintain its diplomatic stature as a sovereign, autonomous, enduring institution with a place in the international community. Currently, the Holy See maintains full diplomatic relations with 168 countries of various creeds and cultures.

    The Holy See is a Permanent Observer in the U.N. rather than a full member for two principal reasons. First, the Holy See does not provide military forces for U.N. peacekeeping actions, and second, the Church has no desire to wield temporal power by having a vote in such forums.

    Archbishop Renato Martino, Vatican Permanent Observer to the U.N. explains that "The desire of the Holy See maintain absolute neutrality in specific political problems." Since the Holy See is the representative of the Roman Catholic Church, its interests are not the economic and political interests of other states. Its mission focuses on the human person, and "In keeping with this principle, the Holy See is mainly concerned with all the issues of human rights, of justice, of religious freedom, of development, peace, etc., and attempts to present, always respectfully but without fear, the principles of the Gospel."

    The Holy See's presense serves to bolster efforts to peace and justice, and to promote the true good of the human person. In 1995, the Holy Father spoke to the U.N. He came not as a religious leader seeking to endanger religious freedom, but as a "witness of hope." He came to testify to the possibility of doing good in the world, and achieving the high aspirations of the U.N. Charter.

    In the words of the U.N. Newsletter published after the visit of the Pope, he "gave us the best anniversary gift of all, his spirit... for a moment, we had a strong sense of possibility, of what we can be... as an organization, as we chart the course for the next 50 years." ZE00031421


March 15, 2000
volume 11, no. 53

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