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The “See Change” Campaign Makes Waves at Beijing +5

June 6, 2000

Dialogue Opened About Status of Holy See at UN, Says Catholic Leader

United Nations, New York–The “See Change” Campaign to initiate a review of the Holy See’s special “state” status at the United Nations has already achieved one of its main objectives, according to Frances Kissling, president of Catholics for a Free Choice, which initiated the worldwide effort just over a year ago.  “We have achieved a full-blown dialogue about the status of the Holy See at the United Nations, which some thought impossible, but is ultimately what the campaign is about,” said Kissling.

“The campaign has brought together a unique alliance of over 525 nongovernmental organizations and garnered support from human rights, women’s reproductive health and progressive Catholic organizations from every part of the globe. The campaign has generated significant international press, television and radio coverage. The question of the appropriate status of the Holy See at the United Nations has even entered the US presidential campaign, with both candidates recently issuing statements on it.  Most importantly, ordinary people and diplomats from all over the world are now asking questions about the privileged position of the Holy See at the UN,” said Kissling.

Frances Kissling made these remarks as women leaders from around the world signed up to join her Thursday on the East River outside of the United Nations on the schooner Richard Robbins, which will fly The “See Change” Campaign flag.

“The ‘See Change’ Campaign has provided a focus for the legitimate outrage women and men feel about the outsized role that the Holy See has assigned itself at the Beijing +5 meeting and the effect their position—if adopted—would have on women’s lives and health.  The Holy See speaks in the conference with the same frequency as do real countries with real populations and real problems.  It continues to act as an obstacle to the existing international consensus on women’s sexual and reproductive rights.  The campaign challenges the Holy See’s categorization by the UN as a non-member state. The Holy See, which is the government of the Roman Catholic church, is not a state. It is not even a physical place. While it maintains a type of diplomatic relations with many nations, it meets no other modern criteria of statehood. Granting it state status is somewhat comparable to giving a seat in the UN to the US Congress.”

“The campaign is gaining momentum.  Just last month, the internationally renowned Argentinean human rights group Asociación Madres de Plaza de Mayo (Mothers of the Disappeared) endorsed the campaign.  Respected groups all over the globe are genuinely concerned about the status of the Holy See at the United Nations and are not afraid to make waves in the quest for justice, equity, fairness and truth, no matter how many powerful groups and hierarchies we have to challenge,” she added.

The “See Change” Campaign, initiated by Catholics for a Free Choice, seeks a review of the Holy See’s special “state” status at the UN as a Non-member State Permanent Observer.  It is currently endorsed by more than 525 organizations, including women’s and human rights groups and Catholic groups from around the world.

–Statement Ends– 

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