Pope Francis will meet with United Nations secretary-general Ban Ki-moon May 9, as well as with the Chief Executives Board for Coordination, marking an opportunity for the Pope to encourage reform of the organization.
The board coordinates and directs the U.N., and is comprised of 29 heads of U.N. bodies.
The meeting comes against the backdrop of a tense hearing of a Holy See delegation before the U.N.’s Committee on the Convention against Torture, which the Holy See signed in 2002.
The presentation of the report highlighted once again the tensions between the Holy See and the U.N.’s satellite organizations.
After the May 5 presentation of the initial report, Felice Gaer, a committee member, blamed the "alleged distinction" between Vatican City and the Holy See, a differentiation she said "would create important gaps in the coverage" of the treaty and is a "troubling" bit of legalese.
Archbishop Tomasi, addressing the U.N. committee, had stressed the “essential distinctions” between the Holy See and Vatican City State, over which the Holy See exercises sovereignty.
The Holy See signed the convention “with the very clear and direct intention that this convention applied to Vatican City State,” the archbishop said.
The archbishop said there is “much confusion” over the Holy See’s jurisdiction. The Holy See has “no jurisdiction” over “every member of the Catholic Church,” he clarified.
The distinction, lost on most people, has been exploited by those seeking to undermine the Holy See’s diplomatic pull at the U.N.
The abortion advocacy group “Catholics for Choice” has been a longtime opponent of the Holy See’s permanent observer status, and has lobbied for the Vatican’s status as a permanent observer to the U.N. being reduced to that of a non-governmental organization. This would bar Church officials from negotiations at the organization.
Earlier this year, the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute launched a declaration supporting the Holy See’s permanent observer status, noting that this “enables it to encourage genuine dialogue, promote peaceful resolution of conflicts, and appeal beyond the mere territorial interests of states to the consciences of their leaders.”
“The world would be far poorer if the voice of the Holy See within the United Nations were ever silenced. May that day never come.”
Prior to this week’s hearing before the anti-torture committee, the Holy See press officer praised the principles of the anti-torture convention while also warning against NGO pressure groups with a “strong ideological character and orientation” that are attempting to influence both the U.N. committee and public opinion.
In February, the U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child used a discussion of the children’s rights convention to claim that the Vatican had “systematically” adopted policies allowing priests to rape and molest children.
More than an indictment of the Church’s handling of sex abuse, the report of the U.N. child rights committee seemed meant to pressure the Church into changing its teaching on human sexuality.
Pope Francis is the latest Roman Pontiff to meet with representatives of the U.N.
Paul VI addressed the organization Oct. 4, 1965, urging it not to foster artificial birth control and to “ensure to each person a life in conformity with his dignity.”
“The building of modern civilization must stand on spiritual principles, capable not only of supporting it, but also of illuminating and animating it,” he concluded.
St. John Paul II addressed the U.N.’s general assembly Oct. 5, 1995, saying it “needs to rise more and more above the cold status of an administrative institution and to become a moral centre where all the nations of the world feel at home and develop a shared awareness of being, as it were, a ‘family of nations’.”
Discussing the U.N.’s commitment to human rights, Benedict XVI noted in his April 18, 2008, address to the general assembly that “those rights are grounded and shaped by the transcendent nature of the person, which permits men and women to pursue their journey of faith and their search for God in this world.”
“Recognition of this dimension must be strengthened,” he added, “if we are to sustain humanity’s hope for a better world and if we are to create the conditions for peace, development, cooperation, and guarantee of rights for future generations.”
On the contrary, the U.N.’s committees are now seemingly pushing a particular agenda, hammering the Church on such issues as clergy sex abuse, trying undermine its sovereignty and teaching on human nature.
Pope Francis May 9 meeting with the U.N.’s leaders will thus be a wonderful occasion to relaunch the Church’s desire for reform at the organization – a reform committed to integral human development rather than specific agendas.