WASHINGTON (July 11, 2000) -- In a letter to Rep. Christopher H. Smith of New Jersey, the President of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops/United States Catholic Conference expressed gratitude for the Congressman's support for maintaining the Holy See's status as a Permanent Observer at the United Nations.
"The Holy See, a state with formal diplomatic relations with more countries than any other sovereign state, has long been an active and valuable non-voting participant in the work of the United Nations," Bishop Joseph A. Fiorenza wrote (July 11).
"Since the United Nations was founded, the Holy See has offered strong moral support for this unique global institution, the ideals for which it stands, and many concrete ways in which it seeks to implement these ideals," Bishop Fiorenza continued. "The Holy See has not only been a responsible participant in the practical work of the United Nations, it has provided a critical moral voice that has helped ensure that the United Nations remains an effective means of protecting basic human rights, promoting authentic development for the world's poor, and encouraging peaceful resolution to violent conflicts around the world."
"It is unfortunate that, despite the strong support the Holy See enjoys in the international community, its status at the United Nations has become a matter of ideological and partisan debate," Bishop Fiorenza continued. "I hope that the Congressional approval of the resolution you have introduced will reaffirm the strong support for the Holy See's role at the United Nations that it enjoys among the community of nations," Bishop Fiorenza said.
Early this year, an abortion advocacy group undertook a campaign to end the official presence and silence the voice of the Holy See at the United Nations. Subsequently, Congressman Smith introduced a resolution expressing the sense of the Congress strongly objecting to any effort to expel the Holy See from the United Nations as a state participant by removing its status as a Permanent Observer. The Holy See has held that status since 1964.
The House passed Congressman Smith's resolution by a vote of 416-1.
Following the House vote, Bishop Fiorenza expressed appreciation to the Congress for its "strong affirmation of the Holy See's role in international affairs."