Holy See Not to Contribute to UNICEF in 1997

Author: STATE


Archbishop Renato Martino

Vatican City, Nov 4, 1996 (VIS)—Following is the complete text of a press release published today by the Holy See Permanent Observer Mission to the United Nations, following the announcement by Archbishop Renato Martino at the UN that the Holy See this year cannot offer a contribution to UNICEF activities:

"The Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the United Nations announced today at the Pledging Conference for Development Activities, held at the United Nations in New York, that it 'cannot offer any symbolic contribution to UNICEF' this year.

"It indicated that the annual contribution of the Holy See to that organization is a symbolic offering representing the Catholic Church's desire to work with those entities such as UNICEF which share its general concern for children, while symbolically responding to UNICEF's desire to collaborate with the Church's child-focused projects throughout the world. At the same time, this donation was seen as a recognition that the work and policies of UNICEF were not contradictory to the moral and social teachings of the Catholic Church. This has been particularly important in view of the encouragement which this donation has been giving to individual Catholics and like-minded donors, and which has also led to various special activities, including the sale of UNICEF greeting cards in Catholic institutions.

"The decision to suspend the practice of making a symbolic contribution was the result of the Holy See's increasing preoccupation with the changes in UNICEF's activities which have begun to divert some of its already scarce economic and human resources from the care of the most basic needs of children to other areas outside of that specific mandate given by the United Nations to UNICEF. In particular the Holy See is concerned about: 1) The failure of UNICEF to provide accountability for funds which donors have 'earmarked' for specific and morally unobjectionable child-related programs despite numerous requests by the Holy See for such assurances; 2) The participation of UNICEF in the publication of a United Nations Manual advocating the distribution of abortifacient 'post-coital contraceptives' to refugee women in emergency situations; 3) Evidence of UNICEF involvement in advocacy to alter national legislation regarding abortion; and 4) Credible reports that UNICEF workers in various countries were distributing contraceptives and counseling their use.

"The Holy See Mission has had an on-going dialogue with UNICEF for a number of years regarding its concerns. During that time, UNICEF has assured the Holy See that, while UNICEF does advocate child spacing, it does not promote any particular family planning method. Further, the Holy See has been assured that UNICEF would never be involved in abortion or abortion-related activities. However, in spite of such statements, the new involvement of UNICEF in the areas of concern outlined above, has forced the Holy See to take this visible step.

"While the Holy See regrets the need to suspend its annual symbolic offering, it felt duty-bound to warn the Catholic faithful and others of the shift in UNICEF activities. At the same time, the Holy See wishes to make clear its recommendations that local pastors and Church associated institutions continue to review their cooperation on a case-by-case basis in order to ensure that UNICEF's collaboration with Church programs remains clearly focused on the prioritization of the basic needs of children. Further, the Holy See expresses its desire to continue a dialogue with UNICEF in a search for ways to work for the true good of children."

Archbishop Martino did announce, however, that "the Holy See will give symbolic offerings of $1,000 to the World Health Organization Multi-center Infant Growth Reference Study, as well as $1,000 to the United Nations Fund for the International Control of Drugs."

That same day, at the UN/FAO Pledging Conference for the World Food program, the archbishop said that, in recognition of the International year for the Eradication of Poverty: "I wish to announce this afternoon that the Holy See will offer a symbolic contribution of $10,000 to the World Food Program. This offering is intended to serve as an expression of recognition and encouragement on the part of the Holy See for the activities of the United Nations, especially those of the World Food Program, toward feeding the hungry and poor people of the world."