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European Catholics Urge Dutch Members of Parliament to End Special Privileges for Holy See

November 5, 2004

Independent Catholic lay groups and leaders endorse motion to treat all
religions equally and ask the Holy See to relinquish its special status at the UN.

FRANCE—On Monday, 8 November, European Catholics and independent Catholic lay groups will deliver a petition to the presidents of six political groups in the Dutch Parliament to urge them to support a motion initiated by Lousewies van der Laan, Vice Chair of the Liberal Party D66, to end the special privileges of the Holy See at the United Nations. The motion states:

“Considering that the Catholic Church/the Vatican is the only Church or religious movement that is negotiating with others at Conferences of the United Nations under the condition of ‘non-member state permanent observer’ of the Holy See; being of the opinion that it is undesirable to grant this right only to one Church or religious movement; but that all religions have to be treated in the same way, [members of the Dutch Parliament] request that the government urges actively the Holy See giving up its position of exception.”

The motion was introduced by the Liberals and immediately endorsed by two additional political groups, the Social Democrats (PvdA) and the Greens (Groenlinks).

The petition, already signed by more than 75 individuals and 14 independent Catholic organizations, calls for support of the motion, “As European citizens and as Catholics… [we call] for an end to special privileges of the Holy See at the United Nations. It is a violation of the principle of state neutrality to accord to one religion a privileged political and legal status that is denied to all other religious communities. The Catholic church is the only religious community to have diplomatic status with the Netherlands and to hold the special status of Non-member State Permanent Observer at the United Nations.”

Elfriede Harth, the European representative of Catholics for a Free Choice, stated, “We applaud the leadership of those Dutch parties and MPs which have taken a leadership position in Europe by seeking to end special preference for one religious community to the detriment of all others. Engaging in diplomatic relations with just one Church or faith group violates the important European principle of religious freedom and state neutrality.”

According to Isaac Wüst, former Chairperson of the International Movement We Are Church (IMWAC), “As a Catholic, I believe it is a big mistake of the Vatican to maintain privileges that come from its imperial history of the Middle Ages. It does harm to both the ecumenical movement and the interreligious dialogue. Both the Gospel and our ever more pluralistic world is urgently requesting this step from us.”

Members of the Dutch Parliament will vote on the motion on Tuesday, 9 November.

A copy of the petition is available at

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