UN Population Division, Department of Economic and Social Affairs,
with support from the UN Population Fund (UNFPA)

94-09-07: Statement of Holy See, H.E. Archbishop Renato R. Martino




The electronic preparation of this document has been done by the

Population Information Network(POPIN) of the United Nations Population

Division in collaboration with the United Nations Development Programme



                                    HOLY SEE

                             INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE

                           ON POPULATION AND DEVELOPMENT

                             CAIRO, 5-13 SEPTEMBER 1994

                                    STATEMENT BY





                                 7 SEPTEMBER 1994

                              CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY

                          STATEMENT BY




                             AT THE


                     CAlRO, 7 SEPTEMBER} 1994

Mr President,

         The Delegation of the Holy See wishes in the first place to

express its particular appreciation to the President, the

Government and the People of Egypt for the welcome that we have all

received in this city of Cairo and for the excellent arrangements

that have been made for the Conference.

         Our meeting in these days represents the culmination of a

period of intense relection and activity on the part of the

international community on a number of important challenges which

all of us must face in the coming years. Pope John Paul II has

stressed rightly that these challenges touch on crucial issues.

trey concern the future of humanity.

         The period of preparation, which has lasted a number of years,

has shown that population policy, if it is to respond to these

challenges, cannot simply be about numbers. It must deal with the

conditions in which all the people of the world are called to live.

It is about the solidarity that must be fostered among peoples so

that humanity can become more and more a true family.

         The Holy See has taken an active and constructive part in the

preparatory period, fully respecting the procedures of the

Conference, entering into dialogue with the various participants at

all levels, while remaining true to its own particular position and

status in the international community.

1. This Conference deals not only with global statistics or the

complex question of population-growth rates which have in recent

years been noticeably describing. The very title "International

Conference on Population and Development" shows that our task

involves the search for a better management and a more equitable

distribution of the goods of this earth, which in God's design were

destined to be shared as the common heritage of all. population

policy must always be seen as part of a more comprehensive

development policy. Both are, in fact, about the same reality,

namely, the centrality of the human person and the responsibility

of all to guarantee that every individual person can live in a

manner which respects his or her dignity. The great biblical

tradition describes the human person as being created as nothing

less than "in the image of God". The purpose of this Conference

should be to ensure that every person on this earth can live in

conditions which truly reflect that-t dignity. While mant development

issues are treated in the various chapters of the Draft Final

Document, the Holy See finds that the Chapter dealing explicitly

with the relationship between population and development is

disproportionately small with respect to the document as a whole.

       Population growth or decline affects the lives of people who

strive to live in dignity and security, but who are thwarted by

fragile political and socio-economic structures. Development

strategies require equity in the distribution of resources and

technology within the international community and access to

international markets. The servicing of the external debt of the

poorest nations strangles their social development. Measures are

needed to make available, on priority terms, the technology

required for improvements in agriculture, clean water supply, food

security and distribution, and health care, especially to overcome

those infectious diseases which greatly contribute to maternal and

child mortality.

2       This Conference addresses in a special way the position of

women within population and development policies. Already ten

years ago, at the Mexico City Population Conference, the Holy See

delegation stressed that population policies must address as a

priority the advancement of women's level of education and health

care, especially primary health care. In both developed and

developing countries, the Catholic Church has been and is deeply

involved in providing a wide range of education and health care

services, with special attention to women and children, especially

the poor.

      Throughout the world, also in countries with only a minority

Catholic population, tens of thousands of hospitals, clinics,

dispensaries, as well as other facilities for mother and child

health and the care of the elderly, are run by the Catholic Church

or funded by Catholic donors. Such health care facilities, along

with Church structures for formal and informal education,

contribute to the advancement of women in such a way as to foster

their active participation in the development process and to remove

the often excessive burdens which women in developing countries

must bear. Much remains to be done in this area and the Holy See,

as well as members of the Church in various parts of the world,

remain ready to cooperate in achieving this goal.

3. Population policies have a particular place in development

policies, as they involve at the same time global questions and the

most intimate area of the lives of men and women: the responsible

use of their sexuality and their mutual responsibility concerning

human reproduction.

      Responsible decisions concerning the number of children and

the spacing of births belong to parents, who must be free from all

coercion and pressure from public authorities, which should however

ensure that citizens have accurate information on the various

demographic factors involved. The Holy See, following on its

long-standing and consistent position welcomes the affirmations of

this Conference which stress that coercion be excluded from all

aspects of population policy. It is to be hoped that these

affirmations will be scrupulously put into practice by all the

nations participating here and that nations and the international

community will be vigilant in eliminating abuses associated with

family planning programs.

     In the past, population policies were structured in such a way

that they often tended towards coercion and pressure, especially

through the setting of targets for providers. Women were the

primary victims. Subtle forms of coercion and pressure have also

resulted from a misrepresentation of demographic data which induces

fear and anxiety about the future.

       This Conference must mark the beginning of a new and clipper

reflection on population policy. Respect for life and for the

dignity of the human person must be the ultimate guiding norm for

such a policy. This policy should foster the family based on

marriage and must sustain parents, fathers and mothers, in their

mutual and responsible].e decisions with regard to the procreation and

education of children. The Draft Final Document, in fact, draws

attention to the need to foster family stability, for the positive

effects that such stability brings to society.

       The Holy See does not support a notion of procreation at all

costs. Its respect for the sacred significance of the transmission

of human life makes it stress, even more than others, the

responsibility which must characterize the decisions of parents as

to whether, at a given moment, they should have or not have a

child. This responsibility concerns not only their own personal

fulfillment, but their responsibilities to God, to the new life

that they will mutually bring into the world, to their existing

children and their family, as well as to society, in a correct

hierarchy of moral values.

       Lack of respectability in the area of human sexuality cannot

but be a cause of concern to everybody. It is women and children

who are most often the principal victims of such irresponsible

behavior. Such remains to be done to educate and form men to more

responsible behavior and to their OWJI sharing in responsibilities

concerning the procreation and the education of children. Lack of

responsibility in sexual behavior is also due to the fostering

today of attitudes of sexual permissiveness, which focus above all

on personal pleasure and gratification.

       One of the great concerns of the Holy See about the Draft

Final Document is that, while in identifying behavior which the

text itself considers "high-risk" or undesirable, all too often it

limits itself primarily to suggestions as to how the "risks" can be

reduced or contained, shying away from proposing a change in such

behavior at its roots. No one can deny that society must be aware

of the health consequences of irresponsible or immature behavior,

but one has to ask: what will be the long term consequences of the

abdication by society of its responsibility to challenge and to

attempt to change such undesirable behavioral patterns? Even more

so, what happens when society tacitly accepts such irresponsible

behavior as normal?

       The Church's position on responsible parenthood is well known,

although at times it is misunderstood. Some here might consider it

too demanding for today's man and woman. But no way of fostering

the deepest respect for human life and the processes of its

transmission is going to be an easy one. Responsibility brings

burdens. Responsibility demands discipline and self-restraint.

4. Human life is so important that its transmission has been

entrusted not simply to a series of mechanical biological

processes. New life, from its very beginnings, has the right to be

closely welcomed into the loving and stable communion of the

family, the natural and fundamental group unit of society. The

family belongs to the heritage of humanity, precisely because it is

the place where the stable relationship of a man and a woman is

transformed into a caring institution for the responsible

transmission and nurturing of new life.

        The problems which families have to face are well known. It is

commonplace, likewise, to attribute many of the problems concerning

social disintegration to a breakdown in family structures. Few

however have the courage to develop creative programs to

strengthen the family and to concretely assist parents in the

exercise of their rights and in carrying out their duties and

responsibilities. Society must give primary recognition to the

extraordinary contribution which parents render to society's own

good, and translate that recognition into effective support on the

level of cultural, fiscal and social policy. The Holy See strongly

rejects any attempts to weaken the family or to propose a radical

redefining of its structure, such as assigning the status of family

to other life-style forms.

5. The transmission of life begins with the intimate relationship

of parents and is entrusted to parental love. The responsible

transmission of life and the loving care of parents belong

together. The holy See cannot endorse methods of family planning

which fundamentally separate those two essential dimensions of

human sexuality, and will express its position on such methods

through an appropriate reservation. The Holy See is also concerned

- and must express this concern - about some specific family

planning methods, which while not explicitly treated in the

Conference texts, are obviously included under the general term

"family planning services". This concern touches especially

programs of sterilization, a family planning method which is

generally irreversible, and thus excludes a change in decisions

about child bearing, and is the family planning method most open to

abuse on human rights grounds, especially when promoted among the

poor or the illiterate.

        The natural methods of family planning receive only passing

mention in the Draft Plan of Action, despite the fact that a

substantial number of families wish to use these methods, not only

for moral] reasons, but also because they are scientifically

effective, inexpensive, without the side effects often associated

with hormonal and t-.technical methods, and because they foster, in a

unique manner, the cooperation and mutual respect of both partners,

especially through requiring a more responsible attitude on the

part of men.

6. The Holy See is particularly concerned about the manner in

which the question of abortion has been treated in the preparation

of this Conference.

       International] consensus language urges governments to "take

appropriate steps to help women to avoid abortion, which in no case

should be promoted as a method of family planning, and whenever

possible, to provide for the humane treatment and counseling of

women who have had recourse to abortion". The Holy See is hopeful

that the Conference will reaffirm this principle.

       While there are many texts in the document which would

clearly infer a desire of nations to reduce the number of abortions

and to remove the conditions which lead women to have recourse to

abortions, there have been efforts by some to foster the concept of

"a right to abortion" and to establish abortion as an essential

component of population policy. Texts under negotiation ask that

countries reexamine their legislation on abortion and countries are

urged, in similar texts, to provide in the coming years, services

of "pregnancy termination" for persons "of all ages". Should

current bracketed texts be approved they would endorse "pregnancy

termination" without setting any limits any criteria or any

restrictions on such practices as integral parts of reproductive

health services. Through the possible approval of other bracketed

language addressed to the entire international community such

unrestricted access to abortion might be elevated to the level of

a right.

        None of these new tendencies emerged during the regional

preparatory Conferences. The concept of a "right to abortion"

would be entirely innovative in the international community and

would be contrary to the constitutional and legislative positions

of many states as well as being alien to the sensitivities of vast

numbers of persons believers and unbelievers alike.

7. The Holy See supports efforts which may emerge from this c

Conference to provide for the reduction of maternal and infant

mortality and to ensure improvements in the conditions of women's

health and child survival. These are important in themselves.

The dignity of individual] people is at stake. The existence of

high levels of maternal and infant mortality in any part of the

world is a wound in the image of a modern world which prides itself

on its high level of material, scientific and technical] progress.

       At the same time there is need to strengthen counseling

services to support women faced with difficulties regarding their

pregnancies and to provide humane treatment following the negative

consequences of induced abortions.

       On many occasions in the preparatory work of this Conference

the Holy See has stressed that it will support and contribute to

the putting into practice of a concept of "reproductive health"

which is understood as a holistic vision of health concerns in the

area of reproduction r that is a vision which embraces men and

women in the entirety of their personality mind and body, and

which is oriented towards a mature and responsible exercise of

their sexuality.

      While such a concept must look to the good of each and every

individual, it cannot-t overlook the fact that human sexuality is of

its very nature interpersonal. Reproductive health must take into

account the formation of people in those areas which will lead them

to be responsible and respectful in their behavior. the current

text is largely individualistic in its reflection and as such tends

to be lacking in its appreciation of the very nature of human


8. In today's world, in which many problems exist concerning

irresponsible behavior in the area of sexuality, and in which

women in particular are exploited, the education of adolescents

towards mature and responsible sexual behavior is essential The

principal responsibility in this area belongs to parents, whose

rights are recognized in numerous international instruments. All

efforts must be made to guarantee parents the full exercise of

these rights and to assist them to carry out their responsibilities

and duties- The task of rearing children belongs in the first

place to parents, not to the State. The Holy See hopes that texts

clearly endorse the rights, responsibilities of parents in this area,

will draw attention to the negative aspects of premature sexual

activity for young people and will endeavor to foster mature behavior

on the part of adolescents.

Mr President

At the beginning of my intervention, I noted that the Holy See

had followed the preparatory period for this Cairo Conference with

great attention and in rest)respectful dialogue with all the

participants you, that when the the Holy See and the Catholic Church

throughout the world will continue, incollaboration with the nations

of the international community, to make their specific contribution,

and indeed to intensify their traditional concrete service of basic

education and care, in complete respect for human life and for the

development of peoples in solidarity.

For further information, please contact: popin@undp.org
POPIN Gopher site: gopher://gopher.undp.org/11/ungophers/popin
POPIN WWW site:http://www.undp.org/popin