DAILY CATHOLIC WEDNESDAY June 17, 1998 vol. 9, no. 117
NEWS & VIEWS
UN CHIEF SEEKS VATICAN HELP FOR INTERNATIONAL COURT
VATICAN (CWNews.com) -- The plans for a permanent international court of justice were at the top of the agenda as UN Secretary General Kofi Annan met with Pope John Paul in Rome today.
After this 20-minute talk with the Pope, the UN head also spoke with Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the Vatican Secretary of State, and with Archbishop Jean-Louis Tauran, the Secretary for Relations with States. A statement from the Vatican press office indicated that in each case the conversation centered on the international conference- - now taking place in Rome-- that is intended to set up a permanent international court.
At his Sunday Angelus audience on June 14, Pope John Paul endorsed the establishment of such a court-- provided that it would respect "fundamental human rights." Church diplomats and pro-life activists have expressed concerns that such a court might eventually intervene in the affairs of individual nations, to enforce UN statements supporting unrestricted abortion and contraception.
Representatives of 100 countries have gathered in Rome to discuss the prospects for a permanent court of justice, which would be charged with the responsibility for handling cases of war crimes and other "crimes against humanity." The drive to establish such a court on a permanent basis began after the Nuremberg trials of 1948, and- - after being stalled by the Cold War-- was revived when special international courts were convened to try accused war criminals for offenses committed during the warfare in the former Yugoslavia and during the genocidal conflicts in Rwanda. The current drive has enthusiastic support from Canada and Germany, and more qualified support from China, Russia, France, and the United States.
A short ways from the Vatican, speaking at the Rome conference dedicated to the establishment of a permanent international court of justice, the Vatican delegate to the United Nations argued that such a body should be an instrument of reconciliation. He also reaffirmed the Holy See's opposition to the death penalty.
Archbishop Renato Martino, the permanent observer for the Holy See at the UN, said that an international court should be dedicated not to vengeance but to "the restoration of just relationships in the human family." For that reason, he said, the court should not invoke the death penalty. He added that "the destruction of life... is inconsistent with the universal norms which serve to justify" such an international court.
The archbishop also said that such a court must protect the dignity of
the human person. He said that nations have the right to establish
such a court, in order to make manifest the universal moral norms
which they hold in common. Such norms, he continued-- in an
obvious reference to certain UN resolutions which have been seen as
attacks on family life-- must be in keeping with "the eternal
principles and objectives that protect and ordain the family and
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