To: (Multiple email addresses may be specified by separating them with a comma)
Archbishop Silvano Tomasi sets his priorities for 2010.
BY Edward PentinRome Correspondent
Silvano Tomasi has been the Holy See’s permanent observer to the United Nations
and specialized international organizations in Geneva, Switzerland.
An Italian from Veneto, Archbishop
Tomasi was ordained in New York and studied for a doctorate in sociology from
Fordham University. A large part of his work at the U.N. involves promoting
issues related to human rights, the most important being the right to life.
He talked Feb. 13 about the Holy
See’s current priorities and how he is working to convince other nations to
respect the common good.
Archbishop Tomasi, what are the
priorities for you at the moment in Geneva?
Geneva is basically a multilateral
hub because of the variety of the agencies of the United Nations that are based
in Geneva. In fact, there are some 20 intergovernmental agencies based in the
city. So the U.N. is an umbrella for a variety of concerns, from labor to human
rights, health and so on.
At this moment there are a couple of
issues of some interest. One is the reform of the Human Rights Council. It’s
more than a reform actually; it’s a question of evaluating, after five years,
how this newly restructured body within the U.N. is functioning.
Among the priorities in the Human
Rights Council are freedom of religion, defamation of religion, how to approach
the issue of religion in public life and in international relations.
Another interesting point is the
International Labor Organization and the project of developing a new convention
on domestic workers. Domestic workers are men and women who work in families.
Often they don’t have a regular contract; many are migrants, but others are
Take, for example, India, where this
problem is very pressing. There is an organization trying to defend the rights
of domestic workers that has 3 million members, which shows how the concern is
quite great. Then, of course, on the issue of health there is the perennial
battle, so to say, of sustaining and defending our values of life from
conception until natural death, the value of the family in particular.
That is always a priority because
the family is the natural basis of society. If you don’t have life, none of the
other rights apply.
Is this right more heavily under
attack now than in the past?
Not in a particularly new way, but
public culture in the international context takes for granted that one way to
solve problems is to facilitate and make available so-called “reproductive
rights,” which include the right to terminate pregnancies for whatever reason.
Also, it believes the concept of the
family is going to be de facto defined as
any two persons living together with some stability. So there are some very
important concerns that we, as Christians and Catholics, need to reaffirm and
bring constantly to the fore.
Through the United Nations and the
public culture which is linked to the U.N., there are many, many points of
convergence. When we talk of human rights, the rights of civilians in war and
conflict, the protection of children and victims of torture, we all work in the
There is also a certain number of issues
on which there is disagreement, and we have to try and work together wherever
possible, to move along but at the same time not surrender our identity and our
own basic principles.
I always say the truth is like a ray
of light: People can walk with you up to a point, but then they don’t walk with
you all the way to the source of the light. So we say we invite people to walk
with us as far as possible to the source. Not everyone understands or sees the
light in order to do this, but that’s what we try to do.
It has been said that the
problem certain nations in the U.N., particularly in the West, have with the
Church essentially comes down to contraception and sexual ethics. What do you
say to that view?
It’s not necessarily only about that
issue. Sometimes we defend nuclear disarmament, and not everyone agrees with
that approach of the Holy See.
family ethics there is a greater gap between certain nations and the Holy See,
which is allied with a few countries that still hold to a more Christian concept
of the family and life. But we need to continue to go forward in our direction
and try to convince people of the value of our position.
direction appears to be sustained now that there seems to be a big problem of
aging in a lot of countries, and there is a direct link between the current
economic crisis and the lack of fertility. So these are issues on which we need
to become more informed, but the arguments seem to be moving in the direction
of common sense and the position of the Church on these matters.
So you’re hopeful for the
I’m always hopeful because we have
the Lord on our side.
Edward Pentin writes from Rome.