VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis plans to address all the heads of United Nations agencies on May 10 in what some are viewing as a crucial opportunity to help turn the U.N.’s satellite institutions away from their radical anti-life agenda.
He is also scheduled to meet U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon next week. The meeting would be the Pope’s second with the U.N. leader since his election.
The U.N. System Chief Executives Board for Coordination — the longest-standing and highest-level coordination forum of the U.N. — will be received in private audience by the Holy Father at the end of its Rome meeting.
Chaired by Ban, the board comprises 29 executive heads of the United Nations and its specialized agencies. These include not only such institutions as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), but also the U.N. Population Fund (UNFPA), which in 2012 declared birth control should be a “human right,” and UNICEF (U.N. Children’s Emergency Fund), which promotes abortion and population-control programs worldwide.
A Vatican source said the meeting is “important, as it offers a chance for the Holy Father to address real-world problems.” He said the Pope is likely to keep stressing themes outlined in his apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel), as well as comments he made on the economy at this year’s World Economic Forum in Davos.
The Pope will issue “a strong message,” the source said, but in a more general way than if he were to address an agency such as the UNFPA individually.
Austin Ruse, president of the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute (C-FAM), said the meeting “could be very important” if the Holy Father “takes the opportunity to call the agency heads back to their original purposes, rather than pursuing radical agendas.”
“A saint named Jim Grant used to run UNICEF, [but] since his time, it has been run by radical feminists, for instance,” he told the Register. “The Holy See stopped donating to UNICEF almost 20 years ago because of its promotion of abortion.”
Ruse said that he wants the Holy Father to “call them back to helping children rather than advancing feminist rights,” and he hopes Francis “has a heart-to-heart with them.”
The U.N. board meets biannually, usually in New York, Washington or Geneva. About every 10 years, it convenes in Rome, the headquarters of the U.N. Food and Agricultural Organization and World Food Program. The last time it did so was in 2000, when the board’s members had a private audience with St. John Paul II.
Attacks on the Church
Next week’s meeting follows a dispute in January between the Holy See and the U.N. committee on the Convention on the Rights of the Child. In a report, the committee made recommendations on the handling of clerical sex-abuse cases, but went far beyond its scope by harshly criticizing the Church for its stances against homosexuality, contraception and abortion.
The Holy See is also expected to be grilled in the same manner again next week, when Vatican officials make a routine appearance before a panel of experts on the U.N. Committee Against Torture.
Observers say members of the panel, many of whom have clear prejudices against the Church, may not only raise the issue of clerical sex abuse, but once more exceed their bounds and use the committee as an instrument to attack the Church.
Meanwhile, Vatican sources have said Pope Francis will visit the United Nations and address the General Assembly as part of his anticipated trip to the United States next year. The visit will coincide with the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia in September 2015.
The precise dates of the Pope’s U.S. visit have not been finalized, and the trip has yet to be officially confirmed.
Edward Pentin is the Register’s Rome correspondent.