From ........... THE HUMAN QUEST

Nov. - Dec. 1996

page 22



Special Status at UN Questioned By Churches

The World Alliance of Reformed Churches has been told that there is growing concern about the "unique and certainly questionable" status enjoyed by the Vatican at the United Nations. Roman Catholics themselves have raised the issue of the Vatican's status at the UN, according to Robert F. Smylie, official observer for WARC and the Presbyterian Church (USA) at UN headquarters in New York.

No other religious body - Christian or otherwise - has the same status or privileges as the Vatican which is recognized at the UN as a sovereign state. The pope has an automatic right to address - as a head of state - the UN general assembly, and the Holy See has full rights to participate and speak at UN meetings. Other religious groups relate to the United Nations as nongovernmental organizations. Heads of other religious traditions have at times been invited or permitted to address the general assembly, but no other religious body has official rights to address the UN.

However, the Vatican does not participate in Voting at the United Nations, nor is it obliged to contribute to financing the UN as it has chosen the status of an observer state.

The issue of the Vatican's role at the UN has been particularly controversial since its high-profile intervention at the UN conference in Cairo on population and development in 1994, when the Vatican made vigorous efforts to have its views on population and birth control adopted by the conference.

The Cairo conference's agenda was delayed for "almost a week because of Vatican politics," according to the report. At the UN world conference on women in Beijing last year, the Vatican used its position to "object to language well established in UN documentation." [ENI]