“In cauda venenum,” the Latin saying goes. And there’s poison in the tail of the July 21 article on Vatican diplomacy in “The Economist.” After two pages full of pleasantries, the article in the English weekly – which is widely read in government foreign offices – ends with this advice for the Holy See:Sandro Magister writes:
“It could renounce its special diplomatic status and call itself what it is – the biggest non-governmental organisation in the world.” On a par with Oxfam or Doctors without Borders.
The Vatican was not pleased, and decided to react. The response came on August 9, from the head of Vatican diplomacy, the French archbishop Dominique Mamberti (in the photo), secretary for relations with states, in an interview with the newspaper of the Italian bishops’ conference, “Avvenire.”“This is certainly not an acceptable invitation! It may have arisen from an imprecise understanding of the Holy See’s position in the international community: a position that can be traced back to the beginning of the international community itself, and has been reinforced above all since the end of the nineteenth century.
“With the disappearance of the Papal States, it has, in fact, become increasingly more clear that the Holy See’s international juridical personality is independent of the criterion of territorial sovereignty. This situation is accepted tranquilly by the international community both on the bilateral level – I recall that there are almost 180 countries that maintain diplomatic relations with the Holy See – and on the multilateral level, as shown in particular by the UN general assembly resolution 58/314 of 2004, which expanded the range and prerogatives of the Holy See’s action as a permanent observer at the UN.
“Behind the invitation to reduce itself to a non-governmental organization, apart from a lack of understanding of the Holy See’s juridical status, there is probably also a reductionist vision of its mission, which is not sectarian or linked to special interests, but is universal and inclusive of all the dimensions of man and humanity.
“This is why the Holy See’s activity within the international community is often a ‘sign of contradiction’, because it does not cease to raise its voice in defense of the dignity of each person and of the sacredness of all human life, above all the most vulnerable, and in defense of the family founded upon marriage between one man and one woman. It does not cease to assert the fundamental right to religious freedom, and to promote relations among individuals and peoples founded upon justice and solidarity.
“In carrying out its international role, the Holy See is always at the service of the comprehensive salvation of man, according to Christ’s commandment. It comes as no surprise that there are some who seek to diminish the resonance of its voice!”
The idea of expelling the Holy See from the concert of nations is not new. Since 1995, “Catholics for a Free Choice” has tried to do this through petitions signed by various countries. The American group is led by a former religious sister, Frances Kissling, but it’s Catholic in name only – more than that, it’s been officially excommunicated by the bishops of the United States. The campaign was called “See Change,” and it was aimed at expelling the Holy See from the United Nations.Read more