U.N. Assembly Faulted on Arms Control and "Health" Terms

Holy See Sizes Up Session

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NEW YORK, SEPT. 25, 2005 (Zenit.org).- The Holy See welcomed most of the conclusions of the last U.N. General Assembly but criticized the lack of consensus on arms control and the use of the fuzzy term «reproductive health.»

At the end of the seven days of sessions, in which representatives from more than 175 countries spoke, Archbishop Celestino Migliore, the Holy See’s permanent observer to the United Nations, presented a statement Friday in which he set forth the positive and negative points of the meetings.

After following the debates of the assembly, which celebrated the institution’s 60th anniversary, the Italian prelate said that the Holy See «welcomes much of what is proposed.»

«However,» he said, «the lack of consensus on arms control and non-proliferation issues is regrettable.» That same day, a conference to pressure countries to ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test Ban Treaty ended without success.

«The silence of the outcome document regarding disarmament and non-proliferation is worrying,» asserted Archbishop Migliore. «Nuclear armament is simply devastating for peoples and the environment; it destroys people’s lives and the substratum of every decent economy.

«We therefore must insist upon nuclear non-proliferation. No effort should be spared to discourage not only the production of nuclear weapons but also any trade or exchange in such materials.»

«Similarly,» the prelate continued, «it is distressing to learn that estimated global military expenditure for 2004 exceeds $1 trillion and is projected to keep rising, yet little serious attention is paid to the high death toll caused by the illicit brokering, traffic and sale of small arms and light weapons.

«That more money and intelligence is used for death than for life is a scandal that should be of the highest concern to all nations.»

Holistic concept

The Vatican representative also affirmed that his delegation expressed the same reservations that it set forth in the U.N. Conferences on Development (Cairo, 1994) and on Woman (Beijing, 1995) in regard to the term «reproductive health» in the final document.

The Holy See applies this term to «a holistic concept of health that does not consider abortion or access to abortion as a dimension of those terms.»

Some delegations conceive the term «reproductive health» as a series of services that include, among other things, abortion.

In the summit that preceded the assembly, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Vatican secretary of state, addressed the meeting, and said: «Would it not be better to speak clearly of the ‘health of women and children’ instead of using the term ‘reproductive health’?»

The cardinal continued: «Could there be a desire to return to the language of a ‘right to abortion’?»

In his final address, Archbishop Migliore referred to some of the more important issues discussed by the assembly, such as the role of the United Nations, an issue in which he pointed out «three specific areas of ethical challenge.» He listed them as «solidarity with the poor; the promotion of the common good; and a sustainable environment.»

The prelate’s statement supported the reform of the Human Rights Council and emphasized that human rights are not something relative, which can depend on cultures or circumstances, but they «are undeniable.»

«In their essential core they have to be universally recognized,» he stated.

Lastly, the Holy See supported «the initiatives in the field of interfaith cooperation and dialogue between civilizations especially where, in the spirit of their reference to and reliance on God, they form consciences, foster common moral values, and promote intercultural understanding and proactive commitments.»

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