National Catholic Register


Reformed Churches Urged to Question Vatican’s U.N. Status

BY Jim Cosgrove

September 1, 1996 Issue | Posted 9/1/96 at 1:00 PM


A REPORT TO the World Alliance of Reformed Churches states that there is growing concern about the “unique and certainly questionable” status enjoyed by the Vatican at the United Nations.

The report—a review of United Nations activities over the past year, prepared by Robert Smylie, official observer for WARC and the Presbyterian Church (USA) at U.N. headquarters in New York— expresses deep concern about the Vatican's use of its influence at the United Nations and calls for Christians to discuss whether the Vatican should relinquish its special status.

The report is not a statement of the official policy of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches.

No other religious body— Christian or otherwise—has the same status or privileges as the Vatican, according to the report. The Pope has an automatic right to address—as a head of state—the U.N. general assembly, and the Holy See has full rights to participate and speak at U.N. meetings. Other religious groups relate to the United Nations as non-governmental 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 United Nations.

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

“This arrangement for voice but no vote allows the Vatican to influence debate at the highest level, and to use its leverage with other states that have been traditionally ‘Catholic’ in identity, politics or history. Yet the Vatican bears no responsibility,” according to the report, presented recently to the executive committee of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches (WARC), meeting in Detmold, Germany. WARC has 200 member churches around the world.

The issue of the Vatican's role at the United Nations has been particularly controversial since its highprofile intervention at the U.N. conference in Cairo on population and development in 1994. (ENI)