Holy See Won’t Attend Summit Marking 25 Years Since Cairo Conference

The Holy See says the summit, co-convened by the UN Population Fund, focuses too much on ‘a few controversial and divisive issues’ — particularly promotion of abortion and contraception.

(photo: Register Files)

The Holy See has announced it won’t be taking part in a summit on population and development this week in Nairobi, Kenya, that is to mainly focus on population control, gender ideology and abortion. 

Vatican officials said they would have been interested in attending the “Nairobi Summit,” running today through Thursday, because it marks the 25th anniversary of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD), which took place in Cairo in 1994.

That meeting was widely deemed a success for Church officials who, under the leadership of Cardinal Renato Martino, then the Holy See’s Permanent Observer to the United Nations in New York, teamed up with representatives of Latin American and Islamic nations and others to ensure abortion did not become a fundamental human right.

But this week's International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD+25) in Nairobi had chosen to focus on “a few controversial and divisive issues that do not enjoy international consensus,” the Holy See mission to the U.N. in New York said in a Nov. 10 statement.

In particular, it said the summit organizers had reduced the Cairo Conference’s Program of Action on population and development “to so-called ‘sexual and reproductive health and rights” — which have become euphemisms for contraception and abortion — and “comprehensive sexuality education.”

The Holy See instead pinpointed an “urgent need” to focus on “critical aspects of the Programme of Action” such as women and children living in extreme poverty, migration, and support for the family as the basic unit of society.

It also said it could not support the summit’s statement as “no substantive and substantial consultations on the text were carried out” and would have liked “more time and a truly inclusive approach” to help garner “broader support” for the text. 

The Holy See’s decision comes at a time when the Vatican has come under fire for collaborating with pro-population control and pro-gender ideology individuals and organizations on socio-environmental issues, and making unqualified statements in support of the U.N.'s Sustainable Development Goals.

The Pontifical Academy of Sciences has this week been co-sponsoring a Vatican conference on reducing food waste with the Rockefeller Foundation, which has long promoted population control and gender ideology. 

And on Oct. 28 at a meeting with governors from the Amazonian region, the academy signed a pledge in support of the Sustainable Development Goals. Although it did not explicitly commit itself to the goal referring to abortion rights, it made no official statement in opposition to it. 

But with respect to the Nairobi summit, the Holy See said it was “also regrettable” that the event, co-convened by the governments of Kenya and Denmark and the U.N. Population Fund (UNFPA), would be held “outside of the United Nations framework.” The meeting also gave a “misleading impression of ‘consensus,’” it added, all of which meant it would not take part in the summit.

Kenya’s political and religious leaders as well as civilians also protested against the meeting, calling it a "pro-gay" summit.  

In its publicity, the Nairobi Summit refers to the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals and states that the “universal sexual and reproductive health is central to much of this agenda — ending poverty, security good health and well-being, realizing gender equality and achieving sustainable communities, among many other goals. 

“Urgent and sustained efforts to realize reproductive health and rights are crucial,” the organizers continue. The issue dominates the issues highlighted on the summit’s website